Life sucks in 2044. Most people live their lives via the virtual reality world OASIS – a free online, VR place for people to “live”. Wade Watts spends almost every minute of his waking life there, hoping to find a better life in a fake world. When the creator of OASIS, James Halliday (who was also the richest man alive), dies he leaves a puzzle within OASIS where, after someone finds all three hidden keys, that person will inherit Halliday’s money. Needless to say, this starts a frenzy of action since everyone desperately wants to be the winner. Wade doesn’t realize his quest for the keys will be fraught with danger and unexpected surprises.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, was recommended to me by a friend. I have to admit the synopsis I read for the book didn’t sound all that enticing to me. I’m not a gamer and I had a hard time thinking that a book based in a VR gaming world could be good. But I gave it a shot anyway since I usually end up enjoying books this friend recommends. Happily, I wasn’t disappointed with this one.
RPO is loaded with 80’s nostalgia and reading this book was like a trip down memory lane for me. Cline is spot on with his references and you can tell he actually lived though and grew up in the 80’s rather than researched the 80’s. The James Halliday character set up his game so that those trying to find the keys would have to have almost the same knowledge of the 80’s as he did. This means that Wade has spent hours upon hours watching, reading, listening, and researching every single pop culture, and non-pop culture, eventh, thing, or moment that happened in the 80’s. This isn’t to say Wade doesn’t have any friends. Well, not in the real world at least. He’s got a few close friends within OASIS, though no one has ever met the other in person.
And that is the basis of this book. Not the 80’s tsunami of information or the additive world of gaming and VR. It’s the strong relationships that are formed within OASIS that is the driving force. One can live in a fake world but one still needs to have other people to talk to, to get to know, to feel a connection with, even if they’ve never met face to face. The strength of Wade’s relationship is what makes him a likable person and helps him on his quest for the keys.
The first quarter of the book is very heavy with tech references. This is necessary since the book needs to set the VR world and explain how it works, how others interact within it, and how dependent upon it everyone appears to be. Once you get past the techy stuff, the book progresses nicely and becomes more interesting. Wade goes up against a mega corporation that wants to win the quest so that they can then start charging people to use OASIS. The struggle between Wade and the corporation forces Wade to get to know his VR friends on a much higher lever and work together in order to have a chance at winning.
I was pleasantly surprised with this book and was very happy to have read it. RPO is more about the strength of relationships, even if you’ve never met in person, not allowing yourself to become isolated due to fears of rejection, the never-ending corporate greed, and a tiny bit about the environment.I highly recommend this book, even if you don’t find video games or VR interesting. This book has so much more to it and is well worth the read.