Wade Watts lives in “the stacks”, a trailer park where homes are stacked one atop another in high-rise slums. Set in the near-future where an energy crisis has rendered the earth a war-torn wasteland, Wade spends his days in his secret hide-out plugged into the OASIS, a virtual reality world used by most of the population where people can work, go to school, and live their entire lives. He is one of many gunters–an OASIS user who is devoted to completing the quest given to all players by Halliday, the creator of the game, before his death to find 3 hidden easter eggs in the virtual reality world. The winner will be given full control of the OASIS and all of Halliday’s fortunes. There is, however, an opposing faction searching for the eggs besides the Gunters. These are the Sixers–a group of cyber white-collar criminals looking for any way possible to monetize any and every aspect of the OASIS. Ready Player One is Wade’s journey to find the eggs with his friends and beat the Sixers to win the ultimate prize.
Ernest Cline hit a major jackpot here. By drawing on a trove of 80’s pop-culture references, he has built not only a successful ode to the age in which he grew up, but has also given us a pop-culture artifact that will be revered for decades. A dystopian novel held together by social commentary and witty throwbacks, Ready Player One creates nostalgia out of nothingness. Readers who have never seen an Atari system before will yearn for a joystick in their hands. Middle-aged dads will look back and see themselves as the protagonist. The geeky romance, video game tropes and banter between friends translate an age gone-by into a virtual reality mirroring the reader’s nostalgia. The novel also does a wonderful job at placing nostalgia and virtual reality side-by-side to explore the themes of memory, reality, and interpretation. A page turner and a book that will be glued to the reader, Ready Player One is a monument and celebration of the geeky 80’s. The movie comes out Spring 2018 directed by Steven Spielberg.