by Ernest Cline
“It suddenly occurred to me just how absurd this scene was: a guy wearing a suit of armor, standing next to an undead king, both hunched over the controls of a classic arcade game.”
Rejoice, nerds, for celebration is at hand! Mr. Cline’s book is a bizarre melding of cyberpunk and 80’s fandom with plenty of reference thrown in to the 70’s , 80’s and 90’s. Tons of period video games, role-playing games, TV shows, music and movies are brought back from our youths to display again before us in all their nostalgic glory.
The world has evolved, and now much of humanity’s activity takes place inside OASIS, a free-to-access virtual world completely realized, especially with add-ons like immersive rigs, haptic feedback suits, and other tools to interface with the environment and enhance the experience. Halliday, the phenomenally successful game designer and creator of OASIS, has recently passed away with no close friends or relatives and has left his fortune and control of OASIS to whoever can solve his final puzzle within the virtual world. Doing so requires god-level knowledge of all things nerd from books to games to film to music and our hero, the low-level avatar Parzival (Wade in real life) has prepped for just that. The contest has been active for 5 years with no winners, and people have lost some of their interest and belief when Parzival makes a connection everyone has missed.
As Parzival completes the first part of 3 major quests, the rest of the world is notified that there’s someone on the scoreboard, the game is in fact real, and the frenzy of the hunt begins anew. He has his online friends as both companions and competitors, but the true threat is the massive corporation, Innovative Online, which has vast resources and no scruples about cheating to win. If they do, OASIS will be monetized and access will be cut off to most. Parzival, Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Shoto, friends who have never met, and the scoreboard leaders also known as the ‘High Five,’ will do anything to keep Innovative Online from ruining the greatest game ever made.
The first 40-50 pages may be fairly ho-hum, and you make think the book was over-hyped, but then the whole package shoots forward at Ludicrous Speed and doesn’t really slow until it’s over. There’s just too much to identify with. We may never have played that perfect game of Pac-Man, but we played the hell out of that game. We may not know the entire script of Star Wars by heart or remember exactly what logic was coded into the computer to avert the nuclear disaster in War Games, but we’re only a trip down memory lane away from recovering a lot of this, and Ready Player One is waiting.
“It’s showtime, old friend. If that sphere doesn’t come down like you promised, this is going to be pretty embarrassing.”
“‘Han will have the shield down,’” Aech quoted. “’we’ve got to give him more time!’”
The book is the ultimate trivia game of all things nerd.