Ready Player One takes place in a world where a games designer had designed a program called OASIS. It’s a virtual reality world where people can go on adventures, level up their avatar and…go to school. After this game designer died it was revealed that he had hidden an easter egg in the game, and should anyone find it they would inherit the designer’s estate, along with control of OASIS. Parvizal is a young man determined to succeed on the quest, but he becomes embroiled in a vicious war, as well as experiencing the painful yearning of teenage love.
I’d just finished reading You by Austrin Grossman, and if you like you can check out my review of that here. That book was said to be the first literary product of gamer culture, and one of the story threads was creating the ultimate game. I felt that got the technical aspects of game design right, but it was lacking some heart, which Ready Player One has in abundance. And in many ways OASIS is the ultimate game. It’s a virtual reality built by a man who just wanted to share his passions with the world, and allows people to escape the drudgery of the dystopia in which they find themselves.
The story is filled with pop culture references and I was wary of this at first because in many stories and movies the references can get tiresome, and it feels like the story was written just so people could make a load of references, and when you look beyond them there isn’t much substance. However, in this book the references feel organic and although there are a load of them they’re woven into the story in such a way that I don’t think the book would work without them. Having these references can be a double edged sword as well, because if people don’t get them the author risks alienating their audience but there were many references that even I didn’t get (much of the book talks about early Atari and Commodore 64 text-based adventures) and yet even though I didn’t have experience of them first hand I didn’t feel left out of the story.
And there’s a good story here beyond the references. It’s all about working out what’s important in the world. Increasingly we’re getting to a point where online and offline lives are blurring, and occasionally we have to ask ourselves if there’s even a distinction between the two. Are friendships any less genuine if you only talk on message boards and text rather than hanging out? Is love any less true without the physical component? These concepts and more all fall under the umbrella of the story.
I found it to be an addictive book. Every adventure was interesting and although I don’t play many video games anymore, I do play Dungeons & Dragons so the quest aspect to the game interested me a great deal. I completely loved it and it’s super entertaining. If you consider yourself a gamer or a geek at all this is a must-buy for sure.