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Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is an innovative and intellectual young adult novel released in 2011. This sci-fi story recounts the quest of an ordinary teenager named Wade Watts who relies on an extremely advanced virtual world, OASIS, to live out most of his life: he attends school, hangs out with friends, and entertains himself all through a digital avatar. The OASIS was originally designed as a cutting-edge freeware MMORPG for the entire world to enjoy and explore. This quickly expanded to include business, employment, government, and more, until practically every person on the planet had their own avatar. This utopic escape is ideal for the apocalyptic state of the Earth in 2044, where poverty and destruction coat the planet in a tragic layer of desperation. For Wade, who has grown up in this reality as a poor orphan, this is a +5 damage double-edged sword because he can’t afford to do anything in the OASIS. Instead, he devotes his entire adolescence to learning everything there is to know about 80’s culture. This obsession developed because of The Hunt: a labyrinthine mission set up by the game’s creator, James Halliday, who left his billion-dollar legacy to the one player that can open all three gates. Halliday, also known as Anorak, was a reclusive genius with an expansive knowledge of nerdy subjects ranging from classic video games and cheesy movies to fantasy literature and tabletop games. Five years after Anorak dies, Wade unexpectedly uses his peculiar knowledge to find the first key and consequently reignite The Hunt. After a stressful and insane race against a powerful company called IOI, Wade and his friends reach the third gate and finally complete the puzzle. The novel concludes with a couple open-ended conditions and a tone of optimism for the future of Earth – the real one.
I honestly have to say this is one of the most entertaining books I have ever read. I finished it in under 24 hours and soaked in every well-written word. This story instantly grabbed my attention when it first quoted the movie Airplane. My obscure appreciate for old nerdy stuff has never really been relevant or useful until reading this book. I found myself getting really excited when the riddles started unfolding. And when Wade realized the location of the first key and started making his way through a dungeon, I literally shouted at Matt about how awesome the book was. Most of my early days in high school were spent in my friend’s dining room playing Dungeons & Dragons for hours at a time, so the theme of a mysterious quest was exactly what I remembered from our old campaigns. Reading through the pages inspired me to look up the things I wasn’t familiar with so I could get more immersed in the story. I re-watched WarGames so I could relieve the adventure that I was reminded of during Wade’s encounter with the first gate. I pulled up Rush’s album 2112 and listened to the sci-fi tracks while Wade discovered the Crystal Key. One of my favorite references throughout the book was the Flicksync of Monty Python’s Holy Grail, it left me giddy. Not to mention that the entire narrative of this story is very similar to my favorite anime, Sword Art Online.
The writing style was perfect for this novel. I imagine that it was pretty difficult to describe a video game interface and simulation controls just through words, but Cline did an amazing job describing the OASIS. Even someone that doesn’t play video games would be able to understand this system, and for me it was flawlessly detailed. Every situation and setting were illustrated with great care and refrained from getting too wordy or technical. With this diction, you could picture a demolished mess of stacks as easily as you could envision a grandiose mansion based off of Lord of the Rings.
What I appreciated most about this story and its gifted author is the absurdly imaginative situations that Wade got caught up in. He plays Joust with an undead king in an underground dungeon. Then turns around and plays a 3D version of an old text adventure. And the giant robot battle at the end was just the cherry on top. I really have to give my respects to Ernest Cline, with the references and continuity of the story, you can tell he put a lot of research and work into it. Every piece of information had some kind of relevance. There were events that seemed very unimportant at first and ended up coming back later to change the direction of the plot (the extra life quarter from Pac-man)! I thought that overall the story was surprisingly complete, despite the cliffhangers we are left with; questioning if Wade will ever turn off the OASIS, if he respawns all the avatars, and what he ends up spending his fortune on. Cline incorporated these possibilities throughout the narrative, allowing his characters to discuss their situation instead of just moving through it. Different outlooks are expressed through the diverse roles in the story like a hopeful teenager, a lonely mastermind, or a selfish tyrant. These people came off as well-rounded and realistic, and it was easy to find someone you could connect with. I was always rooting for Wade even though he got really frustrating halfway through the book. I wanted him to win so badly and his imperfections irritated me at first, but I eventually accepted that he was just a regular kid doing the most that he could.
As I read Ready Player One, I kept wishing that I had actually grown up in the 1980s. I kept thinking about my step-dad, who is super dorky and loves to watch old Star Trek movies. What I found somewhat confusing was the fact that this novel seems to be written for people older than me that would recognize all the nostalgic content. In spite of this, the prose can be rather juvenile and aimed at young adults like myself. This led me to make a connection between Cline and Halliday, because they both seem to want everyone to worship the same things they do. So I don’t think I would recommend this to my step-dad, even though I know he would enjoy the references, I think he is too mature for it. So it seems that Cline was specifically writing this for all the weirdos my age that are in love with an era we can only relive through movies, video games, books, and other classic entertainment outlets.
It is easy to see why this book was assigned to our class. There were many times that I made associations to Black Mirror, especially in the case of losing touch with reality. Everyone in this world considers the OASIS to be their entire life, especially Wade. He struggles with the truth of this façade during his isolated six- month stay indoors. Even Halliday, who spent every moment of his life online, eventually realizes that the real world offers a true existence and that people have been neglecting to take care of it. As we have already discussed in class, our current society is on a fast track to a very similar reality that we see in Ready Player One and Black Mirror alike. This novel has provided us with another great example of what could happen if we lose control of our humanity. Unfortunately, there is a large portion of the population that will never read this book or watch Black Mirror and probably won’t consider what consequences we will eventually face for all the technology we rely on. Good thing a movie is being made from this book, which I am super excited for! Maybe then people will start sharing this story and its connections to our current Earth.
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