Recap: In 2044, the world is a scary place. A permanent economic downturn leaves most people living off minimal means. Instead of immersing themselves in reality, people are now spending their time in a virtual reality online. This online virtual world, called OASIS, allows people to log on and be transported into a universe where things aren’t so bad. Every person has an avatar, and the avatars can go to school online, work online, drive, shop, and travel online. Wade is one of those people; with his avatar, Parzaval, he’s able to escape from his lonely world without parents, real friends or a girlfriend and suddenly become just another person.
James Halliday is the OASIS creator, and when he dies, he leaves behind a scavenger hunt or “Egg Hunt.” Just like any other video game, the avatars must find the keys to three different levels and then pass each one. The first to win will win millions of dollars and take over Halliday’s empire. In order to win the game, players must have a vast knowledge of Halliday’s life and 1980’s pop culture and video games (which Halliday is obsessed with). Most players are also trying to beat the “Sixers” to the finish line. The “Sixers” are a group of employees who hope to take over the empire and charge usage fees for the OASIS, which had always been free.
No one can find the first key for five years. Then Wade does it. With his friend Aech and crush Artemis, Wade sets out to win. But he soon learns that knowledge isn’t the only thing that will get him through the competition. He also needs friends, persistence, and heart.
Analysis: Part adventure, part coming-of-age, and part dystopian, Ready Player One draws similarities to already familiar stories. The search for the key and the ability to enter the First Gate is similar to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But much of the story plays homage to George Orwell’s 1984. Not only does the story revolve around movies, TV shows, music and video games from the 1980’s; and not only does author Ernest Cline flat out reference Orwell’s classic novel in the book, but like 1984, the “Sixers” in Ready Player One watch the players, much like Big Brother. Just like in 1984, the people in this dystopian society are fed up with the government and use the hunt as a way to rebel and take control of the universe in which they’re suffocating.
The story may not be the most original, but Ready Player One‘s true beauty reveals itself in its pop culture references and jokes, and in the author’s ability to create an entire online universe. It had me wonder if a universe like OASIS may not be so far off. Ready Player One is a fun, enjoyable and smart novel that makes a broader statement about our reliance on technology as way to get by in life and maintain relationships.
MVP: Wade. When reading the book, it’s hard to decide what kind of ending you want for Wade. But when the end comes, you know it’s the right one. He not only accomplishes his goals, but he also does it in an unselfish, heroic way.