The story takes place on a future Earth. There’s an ongoing energy crises. Catastrophic climate change. Widespread famine, poverty and disease. Half a dozen wars. Basically, the “real world” sucks! Ironically, the only time our teenage protagonist, Wade Watts, feels alive is when he enters the “game world” also known as Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation (rolls of the tongue don’t it?) or OASIS (a virtual reality simulator accessible by players using visors and haptic technology such as gloves) which was created by James Halliday. Almost everyone spends a significant amount of their lives logged on to The Oasis (which is free) to escape the harsh reality of their everyday lives. I mean it’s pretty much an MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) except credits in the “game world” are the most stable form of currency in the “real world”. Kids can log on (from their homes) and actually go to school in the “game world” because the public school system has been coded online. People can socialize and hang out with other people in the “game world”. People can also go out on quests together, earning credit and experience points (XP). Anyone can do whatever they wanted (provided they had enough credits to do so and were sufficiently leveled up). James Halliday (eccentric 80’s fanboy) as the creator of The Oasis, obviously amassed a vast fortune. Prior to his death, Halliday inserted an easter egg in The Oasis promising his entire fortune to whomever found it, ensuring a world-wide egg-hunt or The Hunt as the contest came to be known. Just like winning the lottery, finding Halliday’s Easter egg became a popular fantasy among adults and children alike. The Hunt quickly wove its way into global culture, even creating its own subculture (egg hunters or gunters for short) comprised of people who devoted every free moment of their lives searching for the Easter egg. Halliday did leave a few clues behind that seemed to indicated that a familiarity with his various obsessions would be essential to finding the egg which in turn, led to a global fascination with 1980’s pop culture.
Ready Player One is every geek’s wet dream! The entire book is basically nostalgia porn with reference after reference to the 80’s (music, movies, videogames, tv shows, fashion, literally everything)! There are several references to the 70’s and 90’s as well (pop culture in general really) but mostly the 80’s. Even the way the story plays out is like an 80’s movie (at least in my mind). I won’t go into it too much but if you grew up in the 80’s, (or listened to 80’s music or watched a handful of 80’s movies) you’ll know what I mean. There’s a morale (or message) to the story and everything, but most importantly, just like all things 80’s, it’s got heart! I even found myself tearing up a few times (for real). Don’t get me wrong, the story itself isn’t that mind-blowing as the premise is pretty much the same as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Also, I kinda’ got annoyed at times because I just wanted to know what happened next in the story, but I had to sift through pages and pages of descriptions, which took me out of the story. I’d appreciate all that attention to detail if it was a movie but as a novel I feel like the author kinda’ overdid it. For me, what drew me in and made it enjoyable was that Ready Player One was saturated with references! As a geek myself (or nerd, whichever you prefer), so much of it just spoke to me and I could totally relate! However, geek or not, gamer or not, 80’s fan or not, pop culture fan or not, you will find Ready Player One enjoyable regardless!