“I felt like a kid standing in the world’s greatest video arcade without any quarters, unable to do anything but walk around and watch the other kids play.”
I suppose this should start with some confessions. I don’t really care for the eighties. I wasn’t around for them and in now way love the eighties. The things I love from the eighties just happened to be made in the eighties, they don’t really define the time period the same way Rambo does. The second confession is that I’m not good at video games. I am, and always have been, very bad at them. Because I’m bad at them – and the older they are, the worse I am – I never did much with the arcades.
With those confessions out of the way, I can say that I was just casual nerd enough to get most of the references in Ready Player One. In a book widely touted for its references, you shouldn’t let those stop you from picking up the book. There were times when they delved deep into the early video game culture and I didn’t get the references, but I trusted them. I trust that Ernest Cline knows everything he’s telling me about. I in no way doubt him when a major plot point involves exploiting a glitch in a particular model of an arcade game. I only bring it up because trust is important.
One of my initial problems with Justified was that I didn’t believe that anybody involved with the show had ever actually been to Kentucky. I’ve since gotten over that problem and have been binge watching the second season in an attempt to catch up. Now I just revel in the little Easter eggs I do see (like bottles of Ale 8, or arguments about basketball) and ignore the idea that Harlan is 5 seconds or 50 miles from Lexington, depending on what the plot needs.
Sorry, for that tangent. I’m just really into Justified right now.
Ready Player One tells the story of a Dystopian future where the world is so shit that everyone lives inside a Secondlife-esque world. The virtual world has expanded so that those inside can live out the lives they’ve always wanted. They can go to alien planets, they can explore the landscapes of their favorite videogames or television shows. The entirety of human knowledge is public domain in the Oasis.
The problem is that the owner of the Oasis has died and left a quest, an Easter egg for the dedicated to find. Whoever finds his egg will become the inheritor of his will, which is to say that he will become the richest person in the world and have control over the Oasis.
Some independents called “gunters” are trying to find the egg, as well as a big brother corporation that wants to take control of the Oasis so that they can charge money for it, which would force many to have to deal with the real world, because the virtual world is free to access in its current form. We also learn early on that, as big brother corporations tend to be, this corporation will try to cheat and kill their way to the prize.
The book is a niche book, it’s not so well written that it will blow you away, but it is done well. Many of the references start to get tiring, but it is interesting how many of the things early on do end up tying back into the plot.
The book is most interesting when the lead character, Wade, has to deal with the real world (excluding mech battles, the mech battles are clearly going to be the best part of any book). For someone who grew up in a drug flophouse with a junkie aunt, Wade is surprisingly well adjusted. His addiction to the virtual world makes a lot of sense. We get the impression from Wade that the world is supposed to be like this, but the real world is mostly glossed over. This choice makes sense. The world where you can make yourself into anything you want to be makes an affecting picture in picture when put in the corner of the real world.