In the mood for some sci-fi? I have been this summer. This was recommended by various booktubers who have been right about things I’d like in the past. Ready Player One was no exception.
This is the debut novel from American author Ernest Cline. In the not too distant future, the Internet has been combined with simulation gaming to be the ultimate interactive experience – not just used for shopping, games, and social networking, but now you can even attend schools online. It’s called the OASIS, and the novel opens with the death of its creator, James Halliday, and the consequences of his death. As he started out as simply a game designer, he leaves behind an Easter Egg in the OASIS, accessed by finding three keys that open three gates. It’s a contest for the whole world. The prize: his entire fortune.
Our narrator, Wade Watts, is a poor, fat, orphaned teenager, who unhappily lives with his aunt and attends school in the OASIS. He has dedicated his life to hunting the Easter Egg, studying the creator’s life, his obsessions, his hobbies, for clues to the keys. At the end of chapter one we find out why Wade is telling us this story: because he’s the player who found the first key.
Things I liked
As a sci-fi novel that is heavily centred in a simulated, computer-generated environment, this is a completely approachable world to step into. It’s not overly-laden with alienating jargon, and what there is, is either explained or specific to the book – my favourite is ‘gunters’, the name given to the egg hunters.
The handling of the online identities vs the real people. Wade’s avatar, Parzival, his best friend, Aech, the lead female gunter, Art3mis, most clearly represent the diverse ways in which people represent themselves online. Another nice touch by Cline was that Wade was still limited in his online avatar, by having no money in real life. Once the Internet becomes an interactive, immersive, universal experience, it is governed by many of the same social restrictions as the outside world.
Likewise, the relationship between the gunters and the ‘sixers’ – members of an enormous corporation dedicated to finding the egg. The gunters work alone or join forces, going up against the sixers in the race to find the egg. If the sixers find it, they intend to stop the OASIS being free to join. Disaster for people like Wade whose lives revolve around the OASIS but have no money to spare.
The light-hearted tone compared with the very real danger Wade finds himself in.
The 80s references. Dear God, the 80s references. So many. I’m sure I only got about half of them, but someone who grew up in the 80s or loves things from that era (and I mean, any things: films, games, music) would have so much fun with this book. Because Halliday grew up in the 80s, many of the tasks are related to the games he played growing up, his favourite films and comic books.
***Just been clued up on some slang slightly before my time. Halliday’s avatar, who still lives in the OASIS, is an archmage called Anorak. Anorak is apparently a name for a nerd/geek. Apologies to anyone who knew this already, obviously I’m just a noob, but it adds a nice layer to the jovial self-deprecation of the quest and the gunters.
Things I didn’t like
Occasionally felt like the odds were too stacked against the protagonists for any kind of happy ending. But not sure that can be a bad thing.
To be honest it was several weeks ago that I read it… I can only say that while I read it I was recommending it to people, and once I finished I bought it as a gift for my sci-fi coach, Motorbike Man, who tells me he enjoyed it.
Should I read this?
Why not? If you’re looking for some approachable but immersive sci-fi, a novel that is not too long, not too short, with a compelling story and relatable but futuristic universe, then go for it. It’s the guy’s debut, too. I reckon we can expect some great things from Ernest Cline.
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The Book Depository
You can buy the book here.
Because I am trying not to use Amazon in my own half-arsed protest-y way, I’d like to recommend to people that they check out The Book Depository, which is a great, user-friendly site with affordable books ranging from brand new releases to classics, and in many different editions at less-than brand new prices. As I am now officially an affiliate of The Book Depository, I gain a small commission if you use my affiliate link to buy books! Please do check it out, even if you don’t buy anything right now.