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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

March 9, 2013

Ready-Player-One-Paperback-Cover

This is hands-down the nerdiest book I have ever read, but man is it fun.

The year is 2044, and things have not gone so well for most people on earth, including Wade Watts. Wade, an orphan, grows up with his nasty aunt in “the stacks”—a sprawling structure made of trailers stacked on top of each other (the American trailer park meets Kowloon) in Oklahoma. But he spends the majority of his time plugged into the OASIS, an online virtual world accessed with VR goggles. In this world, he is Percival, an avatar named after one of King Arthur’s knights who searched for the Holy Grail. Like his namesake, Wade is on a quest of his own.

When James Halliday—the software tycoon who created the OASIS—dies, he leaves his entire fortune to whomever is first to find an “easter egg” hidden deep in the OASIS. He leaves a few clues to kick the contest off and, with so much at stake, it kicks off more than just a friendly game. Legions of “gunters” (short for “egg hunters”) set off on the quest to find the egg. Some band together. Others go it alone. Corporations even get into the game, with one corporation funding a massive army of searchers.

But what makes this novel so novel is that Halliday was obsessed with 1980s pop culture. So 80s video games, movies, music and commercials all play a critical role in the massive, virtual scavenger hunt. They are often parts of games within the game. What do you remember from the 80s? The show Family Ties? The video game Joust? Lyrics to that Midnight Oil hit? If you grew up in the 80s, there are pop culture references that will make you cheer out loud. Even if you weren’t into Dungeons and Dragons (I wasn’t), you can probably remember Choose Your Own Adventure. Or the movie War Games. Deep Pac-Man strategy? Cline has created a world where giant Japanese robots, light sabers, magic spells, and DeLoreans can co-exist. It is shameless in its nerdiness, and it is awesome.

Would I recommend this book to everyone? If you were born before 1965 or after 1989, maybe not. But if you spent the majority of your childhood with an Atari joystick in your hands, dreaming of Ally Sheedy or anxiously awaiting the day X-wing fighters would be available for purchase, you might just love this book. 

UPDATE: My buddy Greg put together a Ready Player One Pinterest board with all of the references from the book he could find.

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