Ready Player One

Book review by Deane Barker tags: fiction, science-fiction

If you were a geek in the 80s, your book has arrived.

The author is one year younger than me, and I half-suspect he was simply trying to cram as many 80s geek references into a single book as he could. The result is insanely fun. Everything is there: Wargames, Dragon Magazine, text adventures on the TRS-80, 80s sitcoms, etc. Memories came rushing at me from every direction.

It’s a dystopian future, and the world’s greatest video game creator has died and left the ultimate Easter Egg hunt. The protagonist is searching for a hidden fortune in a virtual world, competing with other “gunters” (“egg hunters”) and corporate interests that want to control the world. The egg hunt is laced with riddles about 80s geek trivia.

In the end, I’m convinced the book is about hidden knowledge. The protagonist has spent so much time learning obscure knowledge, and in several places in the book, that knowledge is the key that unlocks doors. In this sense, a theme is how our trivial pursuits might someday have value, or how the downtrodden will someday become the heroes.

In some passages, the book is unsettling in the way it frames the virtual world the players compete in. The real world is a mess, so everyone retreats into OASIS, which at some points becomes pathological. Our protagonist has no life outside in the world, and at one point, doesn’t leave his apartment for months. When gunters start getting murdered in real life, the only reason we care is because they can’t control their avatars anymore. I found myself thinking, “well, do they even need their actual bodies?”

Wonderful book. Read it in two sittings – about four hours total. Breezy read.

Book Info

Ernest Cline

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