Ready Player One is a futuristic, '80s nostalgia, video game-esque novel by debut author Ernest Cline.
In 2044 things are even worse than they are now - economically and environmentally. Eighteen-year-old Wade Watts, like many others, lives in a precariously stacked mobile home with many other people - one of whom is his not-so-loving Aunt who took him in after his mother died from a drug overdose when he was young (never knew his dad). It's not very pleasant. But because of his technology smarts, he's able to fix up old laptops and devices and sell them in his free time in order to have enough to eat, despite his Aunt taking his government-issued food vouchers, which is more than others can say.
But where he spends most of his time is OASIS. It's a vast, incredibly detailed, brilliant virtual reality created by a now deceased genius: James Halliday. OASIS allows you to be whomever you want - whether that may be just a better, wealthier, more attractive version of yourself or something out of this world like a fairy, dragon hunter, or alien. Essentially it's a utopia that almost everybody escapes to and spends the majority of their life in.
And before James Halliday died he presented a whole new game: a riddle that once solved would put you on track to become the new caretaker of OASIS, as well as inherit the billions of dollars he left behind. For years, millions have tried to solve the first riddle (it's a series of puzzles, not just the one), but no one has ever gotten anywhere. Finally, people are starting to give up except the devoted few who call themselves "gunters" and a corporation called IOI that desperately wants to control OASIS.
Wade is a gunter. He has studied Halliday and everything Halliday loved since the contest became known. He shares in his love of 1980s television, movies, music, and games. And then one day... he becomes the very first person to solve the first puzzle.
The world flips out. Renewed interest and enthusiasm in the contest puts Wade's avatar at center stage - and he soon realizes that there are those who take controlling the most powerful interactive virtual game and getting their hands on all that money very seriously - and may be willing to commit murder to do it...
But Wade wants to win.
Oh my. This book is insane! There's a zest to Ernest Cline's writing that makes Ready Player One fun and crazy right off the bat. Seriously, I was in its joyous grips within three pages. That's right. Three pages.
OASIS is awesome, even if the world outside isn't. Cline is excellent at making this sprawling videogame realistic and a little disturbing, as you realize almost no one is actually living their life in the real world anymore. Ready Player One is lively and bursting with '80s references - classic iconic pieces of pop culture from John Hughes to Pac-Man to the more obscure. It has such a vibrancy and enthusiasm that it's hard to imagine anyone being immune to it!
Halliday's contest brings a hope and excitement to people - and as a plot the contest is enormously entertaining! It's like playing an expansive, amazingly awesome video game right beside Wade. Ready Player One is truly an utter blast to read - pure fun!!! Have I made that clear yet? ;)
Then once the novel takes a more suspenseful turn - what with Wade becoming in danger after powerful people make it clear they want his info - I was made even more riveted. It was still a delight to read, but had an honest-to-goodness sense of stakes - of loss and fear. But despite some of the darker moments (which gave the book more depth and character development - great!), Ready Player One always remained, for me, a positive, creative breath of fresh air.
Ready Player One is a phenomenal, adrenaline pumping, hilarious, geek-loving, sci-fi thrill ride that I absolutely loved!!!
If you're a fan of any 1980s pop culture or just video games in general - I can almost guarantee that you'll adore this novel. But even if you're not - even if you've never watched or heard anything from the period of history - I still urge you to read Ready Player One - because it is just pure awesomeness!
And I think I might have another book to put on my Best of 2011 list on December 30th. Be there on December 30th to see if it makes the list!