Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
Cover Artist: Design: Christopher Brand
Review by Matt Rice
Crown Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780307887436
Date: 16 August 2011 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
A young man seeks his fortune in Ready Player One, an homage to the pop-culture of the 1980s.
Ernest Cline's (screenwriter, Fanboys, 2009) debut novel introduces readers to America circa 2044: A nation in economic and social collapse in which the only pleasure is the OASIS, the all-encompassing social network-cum-virtual reality in which students attend school, business is conducted, and games are played.
Wade Watts, known online as "Parzival", spends his time, as do most teenagers, in the OASIS hunting for the "Easter egg" placed there by its deceased creator, James Halliday. The egg is the key to Halliday's fortune, in pursuit of which Wade vies against not only his friends, Aech and Art3mis, but also Innovative Online Industries, the corporation that controls access to the OASIS. Everyone thinks the decade-long quest for Halliday's wealth is a lost cause until Wade solves the first in a series of riddles created by Halliday to weed out the unworthy.
Cline's references to 1980s pop-culture, especially movies -- during one memorable sequence, Wade is placed in Matthew Broderick's role in War Games and must recite every line correctly -- and video games, will amuse readers old enough to have visited an arcade, but the nostalgia with which the relics are recalled may prove puzzling to a younger audience.
The dialog is strangely sparse and stilted despite having been written by a screenwriter, or perhaps it's merely true to male adolescent life:
"You're the man, Aech."Entire pages are given over to explanations of the operation of the OASIS or to elaborations of Wade's plans, and can be dull, but are necessary to understanding the nuances of the story. The plot is propulsive; the story moves forward at warp speed, and Cline's finely wrought world will draw readers in. Cline's moralizing is none-too-subtle, and beyond that there is Something Deep going on in regards to religion, but these elements are in no way distracting.
A worthy debut and required reading for children of the '80s.