Imagine a dystopian world, highly developed societies have since crumbled and fallen into disarray. Governments are practically non-existent and the only semblance of order can be found online, in a massive multiplayer world that has taken over the real world, where humanity has no personal interactions but only those that take place in the world of OASIS. In this world, humanity is free to assume any role they want, the lines between reality and simulated are blurred. This is the world Ernest Cline builds in his debut novel “Ready Player One”, a story that takes place in an MMO and one that pays homage to 80’s pop and gaming culture.
Ernest Cline’s novel reminds me a lot of Aristotle’s Myth of the Cave, a seminal reading text in all philosophy classes. I remember the contention between what is real and what is just made up by the shadow play cast by the fire inside. Characters who have been plugged into a virtual world have lost all sense of reality, the lines between the real world and the virtual one are blurred when all forms of interaction are done in the OASIS network. It’s actually a brilliant plot point that makes the novel so interesting to read.
Philosophy aside, Cline’s novel delves into the whole gaming culture. 80’s pop references take leaps and strides as characters: Wade Watts/Parzival, Samantha/Art3mis, Og, Doto, Shaito, Sixers try to solve a puzzle created by OASIS founder Halliday. Halliday makes use of John Hughes films, coin operated games, text based games, music and dungeons and dragons to drive the story. The results are great, entertaining and memorable as I reminisce during those times when I would watch my brothers play the same games mentioned in the book, play out in this fictional work.
Throughout the story there were truly exciting, thrilling and hair raising parts. Moments when the story would really put me at the edge of my seat. High stakes games that drive me to read faster just to get to know some more about the story. And then there are the moments that seem to slow down the tension or feel out of place. The romance parts are what makes the story feel slow, unlike skilled novelists, Cline makes the romance part stand out like a sore thumb as opposed to being seamlessly weaved into the story.
For a debut novel, Ready Player One is ambitious and entertaining and one of the unique books I’ve read this year. I don’t know why I didn’t read it when it first came out in 2011. Nevertheless, it is an unputdownable book and for geeks and nerds alike, it should grace their shelves like a prized limited edition version of a game.