Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt–among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life–and love–in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Oh, Ready Player One, it is almost like you were written with me in mind. I put off reading this because I didn’t want all the hype to influence me. And here I am feeding the hype. To begin with I’m a huge video game fan. And Ready Player One is spot on with video game culture. The camaraderie and the rivalry with people you only know online, but feel like know you better than anyone in normal life. The ability to finally get to be the person you’ve always wanted to be. The cliches/guilds, puzzle adventures, and first person shooters are all here in one giant MMO. I liked that there were real in-game consequences if your avatar died, it added a level of suspense that you don’t always find in video game stories. I enjoyed the commentary about living both inside and outside games and taking care of yourself in both places. When Wade decided to get physically healthy and use the game to motivate him, I cheered. The book doesn’t come down on either side of the video games are evil time-wasters or they are the savior of mankind. It presents both sides and let the reader make up their mind and I appreciate that. I liked the more nuanced take on the subject.
There is very little I didn’t like. The pacing at the end was a little off for me. The last puzzles are wrapped up quickly after the first are drawn out and more evenly spaced. And that is all I didn’t like. That’s it.
If you have any love for video games or 80’s nostalgia, give this a try. And be ready to cancel your plans so you can read this in one sitting.
4/4 Throwing Stars