Orphaned and left to the care of his neglectful aunt, seventeen year-old Wade spends as much time as possible in the online virtual world of the OASIS. From virtual school to online chat rooms to video games, Wade lives most of his life and maintains his closest relationships over an internet connection. When the OASIS founder James Halliday dies, he leaves a challenge behind for the most faithful of his users: find three keys, unlock three gates, and locate the Easter egg within the OASIS. The prize: his fortune and control of the OASIS empire. Of course, everyone wants to win, but Wade, a devoted student of Halliday’s interests, knows for him, it’s the only way to survive. Once Wade uncovers the first clue, a dangerous rival threatens his life, and Wade must continue his online hunt on the run. The only way he’ll ever be free is to win the prize.
After coming across rave reviews, I listened to this novel as an audiobook, narrated by Wil Wheaton. We are a pretty pro-Wil Wheaton household: a little bit Trekkie, avid Tabletop followers, and yes, we’ve watched the recorded sessions of the Acquisitions, Inc Dungeons and Dragons games. So, needless to say, both my husband and I were excited to get into this video gamer story. We listened to it on the way to and from my cousin’s out-of-town wedding.
All the way through, I loved the narration. Wheaton’s delivery was entertaining and he seemed to really enjoy the story himself, which made it easy to enjoy hearing it. As a child of the 80s, I got a kick out of a lot of the references (some I missed… must have been too busy with My Little Pony or Jem & the Holograms.) The first quarter of the story itself really had me hooked. Here’s this kid with this big dream, and suddenly the cost of pursuing it skyrockets. Suddenly finding Halliday’s Easter egg could cost Wade his life.
But once Wade went gaga over Art3mis, I felt like the tale lost some steam. Over and over I felt like there were opportunities for conflict or tension, and instead they became long passages about how awesome Wade is and how he knows everything he needs to know, and did we mention he’s awesome? To me, those parts read like a fantasy as opposed to a story. So that kind of dampened my enthusiasm a bit.
Still, the overall mechanism of the contest and the big inevitable showdown between the gunters and the black-hearted IOI guru made for an exciting climax. I liked that Wade’s friends are not who he thinks they are. A bit of that reveal may have bordered on being preachy, but the overall message – that the internet is sort of the new marketplace, and despite the fact that an avatar’s appearance bears no connection to the gamer’s real face, certain kinds of people get preferential treatment. I liked that Cline went there and respected that he took the opportunity to challenge stereotypes.
Despite the slow middle, Ready Player One was a really fun read. I highly recommend the audiobook version.
Extreme profanity used throughout the story. More frequently in the first half than the second half.
References to the main character being a virgin. There are places to visit within the Oasis in which players can purchase virtual companionship and use a doll to simulate sexual experiences. There aren’t really any details describing the process. The main character goes through a brief period in which he’s desperate enough to try this, but feels ashamed later.
Gunters sort of treat Halliday’s book as a holy text. Not in the sense of worshipping him per se, but more like the quest has that much importance.
Bad guys blow up a trailer park full of innocent people and toss a gamer off the balcony of his apartment building to his death. Virtual battles take place within the Oasis. Nothing is described in gory detail.
Spielberg (who is mentioned in the book) will be directing the film version of Ready Player One, which is set to be released in December 2017. Also, to celebrate the release of the paperback version of his book, Ernest Cline hosted a contest inspired by the story in which participants had to locate an Easter egg within the story and unlock gates to reach a final victory. The prize, a Delorean was awarded to the winner, Craig Queen.