(Author's note: I am honor bound to pre-acknowledge the fact that none of what I'm about to reference in the following paragraph has any historical value whatsoever. Ok, with the possible exceptions of two WW II Flicks, those being Tora, Tora, Tora and Midway.)
I never thought we'd reach this point. I grew up watching movies and TV shows set in the past. You may think you know a fan of westerns but until you've met my grandpa and my dad, you really haven't met one. You may think you know someone who likes World War II flicks but until you've sat down on a weekend with myself, my father and some popcorn popped in a pan on the stove, you really don't. I'm still wondering why guys like my Uncle Bob who served in Korea never got their movies, but different blog/different day. Later came the Vietnam flicks. For some reason though, I never though my generation would get their chance. I thought that 80s nostalgia would never happen. Well, I guess I need to apologize. Ernest Cline's Ready Player One had me soaking in my childhood. It felt great.
Something I've noticed a lot of lately is the inclusion of the internet in stories. I'm a big fan of this. I don't mean just for googling or checking Facebook. I mean epic battles online, like in Nick Coles CTRL, ALT, Revolt! reviewed here,(and I really need to review Soda Pop Soldier too.) or in Cline's Ready Player One. Not only is it entertaining as all get out, but it makes business sense too. There are legions of gamers out there and this is something that's perfect for them. Seriously. I'm neither a fan nor a supporter of identity politics but I can't deny that it's cool to read a story about someone like me. I'm a gamer. When I read about other gamers, it makes me happy. It entertains me. That's the whole point of escapism right?
The kids in the book are after a prize; the world's most immense forturn. The greatest game designer in history (James Halliday) has designed an alternative environment online, the Oasis. He charges only a quarter to buy into the environment and does not charge a subscription fee. He does, however charge for certain things online (online goods and space for people who want to create separate environments within his environment for example). When he passes due to old age, he leaves his fortune including control of his shares in the company that controls the Oasis to the person who can solve his puzzle and complete the accompanying requirements. It's not easy but many people become enthralled with the search.
The Oasis eventually takes more and more of the time of the world to the point that many people only participate in society through the Oasis. Some (but not all) schools are conducted there. There are stores and a currency, which is listed as being the most stable currency in use. It goes so far that our hero, Wade Watts votes in the elections in the Oasis, but skips voting on real world politicians because the real world politics don't effect his life as much as the representatives that are in charge of the Oasis. In the context of the story that actually makes sense.
The part about this book that really makes it fun is the nostalgia though. Ready Player One is a celebration of all of the stuff I remember from when I was a kid. The early video games are here. (Ok, maybe just maybe it would have been more fun with more Intellivision because that's what I owned but I didn't write it so it makes sense that it wasn't going to be perfect for me personally) Eighties music is here. Eighties movies are here. I don't want to reveal too much because a lot of the nostalgia is essential to the plot but dude.. it's everywhere. The kids in the book (and this is a Young Adult novel) are experts in Eighties culture because they have to be. The clues left to solving the mystery are based on Halliday's 80s pop culture obsession. A lot of the time in the book is kids discussing the same stuff I grew up loving. They're honestly better than me at most of the games I grew up playing, but then again nobody ever gave me a fortune for my performance either.
Ultra sensitive right wing readers may not enjoy this book. The Big Bad is a corporation bent on taking over the Oasis and increasing their profits. There is a surprise gender/race bend at one point in the book. It makes sense in a way, but if you're a right winger that is as easy to offend as the average social justice bully, you're going to get all butthurt over this one. I personally won't feel any sympathy for you, especially since the socjus entry in the book makes sense in context, adds to the story and isn't overly preachy. Your mileage may vary but don't come whining to me if it does. This is a good story with a lot of action and entertaining characters. What little bit of leftism is included in the book does nothing to diminish it to anyone other than the whiner type.
Ready Player One is a celebration. It is a celebration of the Eighties. It is a celebration of gaming. It is a celebration of the courage of a small group of people set against a huge opponent. It is a celebration of the indomitable human spirit. It is a celebration of people who are willing to come together to fight the establishment. It is a celebration of asskickery. That is fitting because Ready Player One kicks ass.
Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Stars
Ready Player One
Dark All Day, Inc, 2011
Ready Player One is available for purchase at the following link: