Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

When the eccentric creator of the virtual reality world that has become more real than the real world dies without an heir, the nerds of the world race to discover a hidden easter egg that will unlock his fortune.

So. Fun. Ready Player One was an absolute treat of a book–compulsively readable and fabulously geeky. The hero is Wade, known in the virtual world called OASIS as “Parzival,” a high school student who has dedicated his whole life to hunting for the hidden easter egg within OASIS that will unlock creator James Halliday’s fortune. He wants the fame, the glory, and the money, but he also wants to save OASIS from the “Sixers,” egg hunters controlled by an evil conglomerate that wants to monetize OASIS thereby destroying all that is good about it.

It gets even better. Halliday was an 80s freak, so in order to find the egg everyone has to become experts on all the pop culture from that misbegotten decade. We’re talking WarGames, Adventure, Zork!, D&D, and so much more. I loved all the references, both big (Pac Man) and obscure (The Plimsoulls) and how they were integrated into the world and into the plot. Yum!

Wade is basically living the dream–what if you could actually become a gazillionaire by playing video games all day long? What if you got to step inside and live the game itself? I don’t just mean that your life becomes a game. I mean, instead of typing in the text commands for Zork you’re actually doing them in a virtual reality that is more real than real. That’s what this book gives you, from the POV of a character who isn’t just a gamer.

Wade has all kinds of conflicts to deal with that distract him from the task at hand, and he has to decide which is more important, the real world or OASIS. He’s in love with a girl who insists he can’t love her because they’ve only ever met online. But it seems like the real thing, too, and he spends the book trying to get her to see it his way. All this, and Mechagodzilla, too!

Lest you think this is just a lark, the book also offers some pretty keen commentary on technology today. It’s not for nothing he name checks Cory Doctorow. I was also reminded of Scott Westerfeld’s Extras, another book that seems quite prescient to me.

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