Ready Player One
So, normally, book reviews are not my thing, and I usually leave the job to those more aptly suited for the task (you know who you are, A.F.). However, I could not NOT write about this book I just read called, “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Hubby read about it in the paper and suggested it to me, since the author is our age and from Austin, and the plot revolves around cool 80s stuff.
Anyway, I looked up “Ready Player One” on Amazon and two lines into the description, I was sold. Flying DeLoreans, videogames, 80s trivia and nostalgia galore…what’s not to like?? I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle and tried to hurry up and finish the mediocre book I was currently reading, so that I could get started on it.
As I discovered, the story is set in the future, in the year 2044. This will definitely NOT be a Book Club book for my little clan, I can tell right off the bat (we have several members opposed to “futuristic” or “unrealistic” stories of any kind). But it appears to be right up my alley, and luckily I wasn’t disappointed.
Here’s how the story goes.
Wade Watts is a geeky, awkward adolescent, existing just above the poverty line, who turns to video games to escape his depressing life in the real world. One big video game, in particular, called “The Oasis.” It’s basically like an all-encompassing life simulation, in which you create your own persona (an “Avatar”) and navigate this other “world” as you see fit.
You can do pretty much everything in the Oasis…go to school, meet and hang out with friends, flirt with members of the opposite sex, and most of all, play games. The more games you play, the more skilled and higher ranked your Avatar becomes.
The crux of the story is centered around the man who created the Oasis, and how upon his death, it’s revealed that he’s designed a virtual scavenger hunt, intended to test the knowledge of his personal likes and obsessions…which is everything 80s…film, music, video games, and pop culture. The winner of the Hunt gets control of the Oasis and inherits the creator’s mega-million dollar estate.
The Hunt takes you on a wild ride filled with tidbits and trivia that will surprise and delight any 80s reveler, myself included. I do have to note that the viewpoint is definitely male-skewed, and contains more references to Rush, Dungeons & Dragons and Japanese robots than I would have liked. But there were plenty of other 80s goodies to soothe my soul, so I really can’t complain.
My favorite parts were references to 80s videogames, like the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. As the main character navigated his way through Adventure and other Atari games, fond memories came flooding back of hot, summer nights spent trying to reach the next level in Pitfall, Space Invaders or Missile Command.
Reminders of sleepovers at a friend's house, playing Lock and Chase on the Intellivision until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. Friday afternoons afterschool roping someone’s Mom to drop us off at Crystal’s pizza because it was the only retail establishment in a 5-mile radius that had “Tempest” (which I had a high score on, oh yeah!). Just a little FYI, I also had high scores on Burger Time, Dig Dug and Ms. Pac Man. Centipede, Frogger and Donkey Kong were my works in progress.
Ah, what I wouldn’t give for one more turn behind the joystick of one of those beauties. The sound the quarter makes when it hits the bottom of the machine, the way the screen lights up with its rudimentary graphics, the cheesy synthesizer music and warped sound effects. The video games of today ain’t got nothin’ on those classics.
Reading “Ready Player One” was like reliving my biggest dorky, geeky pre-teen fantasy, albeit in a weird and unexpected way. Amidst all the action, a sweet, little love story ensues, which is really just the icing on the cake. A plethora of 80s morsels…Schoolhouse Rock, Duran Duran, John Hughes references…it’s all there.
Read it. All the cool kids are doing it.