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Set in the dismal future of planet Earth, player one, Wade lives in “the stacks” of Oklahoma City. Towers of RVs placed one on top of the other up to 24 units high, from the stacks and his home. As the world’s gas crisis continues and more and more people are forced to live off of food vouchers from the government to survive. Wade sleeps in the laundry room of his unit with his heartless aunt and whichever dirt bag she is currently dating, along with 2 other families. As a poor orphan, he has no other option but stick around. His only escape from his unfortunate life is the OASIS, the virtual-reality video game that has consumed the majority of the world population. He enters the game every day for school, social and leisure and most recently, hunting the prize in a contest that will lead him to the game creators fortune.
The OASIS has been a part of Wade’s life since his childhood. His mother used it as a tool to keep him busy while she worked to support them. Now, he mostly uses it to attend school, hang out with his best friend and to hunt for the largest prize in the world: the “Easter egg” hidden in the game by the billionaire creator, which leads the winner to his fortune. The user accesses the OASIS using the visor and haptic gloves. To make an account you sign up using your email and your retinas. Every login is enabled by a retina scan, then the haptic gloves track your actions in real time. The OASIS seems to be a more advanced version of the pre-existing game system called Oculus Rift. It is a similar concept but is still in its primary stages of development. Oculus’s visor goes from one side of your peripherals to the other to try and give a full immersion experience. OASIS projects the scenery directly into your retinas to fully throw you into its world. Oculus Rift allows you to play video games using a game controller similar to X-Box. The OASIS allows the user to actually live and participate in any of its thousands of worlds. Especially since making an account only costs a quarter, it is understandable how nearly everyone in the world has integrated the OASIS into their everyday life.
Ready Player One is very similar to The Hunger Games trilogy. They are both set in a dystopian type future where the majority of people are poor and struggling. Both stories have a major competition but with two very different goals. Ready Player One’s contest is to hunt for a virtual Easter egg in the OASIS that leads to the game creator’s fortune. The Hunger Game’s contest is to try and make it out of the game alive. Both of these stories focus on the importance of perseverance and determination. I think Ready Player One made me think of the trilogy because of these reasons and also because of the message they both have. Both stories give us a good sense of what our futures could possibly look like if we don’t start actually trying to make a difference and solve our problems. If we don’t stop caring so much about what’s happening on our favourite television show and start caring about what’s happening to the ice caps in the arctic, then maybe we can avoid a situation like The Hunger Games. If we become more focused on healing the hit point from an enemy and not on healing the environment, the environment can end up looking like something right out of Ernest Cline’s mind. The point is, is that we need to start taking our issues seriously or these popular fiction novels will turn into non-fiction history books very quickly.
Ready Player One’s plot is built around the OASIS creator’s “Easter egg hunt”. James Halliday has hidden three keys, which unlock three gates, which will lead anyone who finds them all to his fortune of billions. Halliday almost never spoke to media even though the initial release of the OASIS and for its entire ride up to the level that it’s on now. In the years leading up to the introduction of the contest, no one had seen or heard from Halliday for years. His company partner hadn’t spoken to him for years and just assumed he was coming up with a new game. According to the partner, Halliday was always trying to create new games and new things. No one could have ever predicted something of this magnitude. Cline’s character is very similar to someone who also has recently passed. Steve Jobs was a man whose accomplishments relatively mirror Halliday’s. Jobs created what is now probably one of the most used electronics brands. Apple inc also started out small but turned into a global corporation that has its grasp on most of the world. Halliday’s company, GSS (Gregarious Simulation Systems), started out in his partner’s basement and is now a staple in most people’s lives. Jobs was always looking for new ways to improve the company – always looking outside the box. This is what lead him to a three-picture deal with Disney, giving us Toy Story. Though it took four years to make, Jobs’s creation of the globally popular film got him to start Pixar Animation Studios. Halliday was also always looking for ways to improve gaming. Always coming up with new games and pushing boundaries, he was blazing a new trail in the gaming world; a trail that lead to the OASIS. The virtual reality simulation was unlike anything that came before it. Jobs was an extremely creative man, as was Halliday. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alive for Steve Jobs’s rise to fame, when the world really got to know him, but according to Lesley Phillips, “Steve Jobs is would definitely do something like that.” The English teacher is referring to the “egg” that Halliday has hidden in his game. She believes that Jobs probably would have done the same thing if he had no heirs like Halliday.
This book has been impossible to put down. The characters keep me on my toes and have me rooting them on. The story and concept are so interesting that it makes the book almost as addictive as a real video game. Excited just barely describes my feelings towards reading the rest of this book.
The second section of this story has taken a turn for the worse; at least for our heroes. Many people have died in this section and all at the hands of the “Sixers”. Also, the love affair between At3mis and Parzival has also died. Lots has happened in this section that wasn’t expected. In the first section, I said I was excited to continue reading the rest and I believe my high expectations have been met.
Cline takes a few pages in this section to describe Wade’s current living conditions. He rarely leaves his haptic immersion chair; it’s held up by 2 robotic arms, rotating the chair on all 4 axis. In fact, the majority of his room has been taken up by the newest and most intricate electronics. His huge immersion rig, complete with an odour-emitting tower and his top-of-the-line visor. Essentially the entire description of his small futuristic apartment life brings to memory the humans from Wall-E. The people in this movie have evacuated earth after letting it become overrun by garbage. They all live on a gigantic spaceship where they do nothing but sit in their floating chairs, eat and stay logged into their holographic computers. Whether they’re video chatting with others or watching some show, the humans never leave their chairs or the online world. This sounds pretty similar to most gunters in this story. Especially the “Hikikomori”, the people of Japan who became so locked into the online world that they never left their rooms. Known as the missing millions, they have much in common with the people of Wall-E who are missing life and actual social interaction, just like the hikikomori.
Another thing these two stories have in common is their main source of nutrition. Every morning Wade drinks a can of “Sludge”, a vitamin-D rich drink that provides him with the nutrients he doesn’t get from staying inside. The people in Wall-E drink every meal out of “Big-Gulp” sized cups. Both versions of mankind’s future involves us becoming so lazy and internet-involved, that we don’t cook anymore, we just drink. Just put anything of nutrition value into a drink and that’s what future meals look like according to these story lines. These two stories also feature companies that have a tight grasp on the human population. In Ready Player One, that company is obviously the GSS, while in Wall-E that company is “Big ‘N Large”. They own practically everything in the human’s lives, slamming their brand all over the huge jumbotrons that are plastered on every metre of wall.
I, as a reader, am very upset with who Wade has become. He has become self-absorbed and let fame get to his head. In the beginning, he was so focused on his quest, even when he had no means to explore the OASIS for clues. Now that he has all of the gear and gadgets to push forward even harder, he let himself get too confident and fall behind. He also fell for someone he met online, which is understandable, but he let it ruin his friendship with Aech. He and Aech had been nearly inseparable for years but as soon as a pretty simulation comes along he ditches his best friend. In my books, ditching friends for partners is the worst thing in friendships. There is no reason why the people who have been there for you suddenly have to come second to what is probably just another passing face. And when Art3mis drops the breakup bomb on him, he’s left with no friends and no one to talk to but his assistance software. But I think he got what was coming, he doesn’t know Art3mis nearly as well as he knows Aech, but he still pushed him aside. I think Aech made the right choice to cut Parzival out of his life, especially after Wade said what he did about the copper key. Aech ending the friendship by repaying his “debts” and I think that was the best way possible – to the point with a side of attitude. Also, karma really hit Wade in the face when Sorrento beat him through the Jade gate and to the crystal key. I don’t want IOI to win either, but it got him back into the motion of trying to solve the riddles.
The section of the book was interesting, don’t get me wrong, it had lots of twists I wasn’t ready for like Sorrento becoming leader of the scoreboard, but it also made me very sad. It opened my eyes to everything the sixers are willing to do to win the contest. They killed everyone in Wade’s stack, they are still looking to kill the High-Five, even after they broke into Daito’s apartment and killed him too. The Sixers are ruthless in the OASIS and in the real world because they know that the best gunters probably can’t defend themselves in the real world. I am still excited, but now also nervous to find out the final outcome of this book.
The final section of the book took me on a journey through Parzival’s twisted mind and his elaborate and dangerous plan to win the contest. Once he clears the second gate, he quickly solves the riddle to access the third gate, but only to be met with the entire sixer army and their impenetrable shield. This is when Cline really hooks onto the reader because Wade tells us he has a possibly fatal plan, but we don’t actually get let in on it for a few more chapters.
Wade’s plan involves his forging his credit account to be 20,000 dollars in debt to the IOI. From now to the next eight days, everything that happens to him was a pre-planned move. His arrest which led him into indenturement, which gave him access to the company’s intranet software, which he then used a bug in the system to get 10 zettabytes worth of information on the sixers. He was able to get everything they’ve ever done; their original plans to kill Parzival and Daito, their current plans to abduct Art3mis and Shoto, and especially live footage of the sixers inside Castle Anorak and everything they had currently tried to get into the gate. Even though this plan was exciting to come to learn, I didn’t enjoy the way the author slowly gave us one piece after another. It was very confusing to try and follow along with Wade suddenly being arrested and thrown into IOI slavery. But it was exciting to follow along with his as he hacked his way into all of the sixers secrets. It made me feel less upset with him after his behaviour in the previous section because now he was doing something that could possibly have him stuck in the IOI system forever. But once he got into the software, he started slowly digging himself out of that prison. His escape sounded like a modern version of infamous Alcatraz escape. The prisoners in Alcatraz were able to literally dig themselves out of their cells using nothing but a spoon. Yes, this took a lot longer than Wade’s escape, but this is 2043, people don’t have to physically work as hard to get what they want anymore. Wade was able to “dig” himself out by always ensuring that his monitoring cameras couldn’t see what he was doing on his IOI access point. The he released himself from the monitoring devices and used a disguise to literally walk out of the IOI headquarters. Of course, his way was easier than the prisoners in Alcatraz, but it was just as interesting to read about his strategies.
After his escape, Wade met up with Aech, Shoto and Art3mis to tell them everything that had gone down. Including the rest of his plan to take down the sixers and enter the final gate. While they were discussing the plan, the co-founder himself, Ogden Morrow appeared in the room. He offered them all an invite to go to his home to play from there. Og comes across to me as the typical mentor that is constantly seen. In the earlier description of Morrow, he has a beard, which also gives him the look of the typical mentors. An old wise man with strong power; this describes Morrow as well as other characters such as Dumbledore and Gandalf. Even though he doesn’t really mentor the players, he has been watching them since they became the “High-Five”. And in the end when they need him most, he provided for them in every way they could think of.
The largest “plot twist” in this section was probably supposed to be the reveal of Aech’s real life looks. I put the plot twist in quotations because the reveal was very predictable. From the beginning, Aech’s reluctance to reveal anything about his true self eluded to the fact that he wouldn’t be the same as his avatar. Then when he warned Wade that he looks nothing like his avatar, his serious tone also gave away that the difference would be something bigger than a different colour of hair. Aech ended up being a heavyset African-American woman, and she then explained why she took on the online look of a white male. Her mother had done the same thing because her job required that she work through the OASIS. Her mother had realized that she was treated differently as a white male and began to conduct business that way. It makes me sad that even 35 years in the future, there is still so much discrimination against people of colour, especially women of colour, that they have to change their gender and race just to be treated with some respect.
The book ended just how I had predicted in the very beginning, with Parzival winning the prize. I also knew that he wasn’t going to be selfish and keep all the money to himself. From the start, it was obvious that he would share his winnings with at least Aech. The ending turned out to be very cheesy, which was frustrating considering the rest of the book was so interesting. The sappiest and most melodramatic part was probably when Art3mis arrived at Og’s house and refused to meet anyone until after the contest, and once Parzival had won, she was waiting for him in the centre of a maze, while sitting in front of a fountain; I hate clichés and this is the most cliché scene I have ever read. The text was so predictable that when he “started over” with her and reintroduced himself I was essentially reciting his lines along with him. Cline let me down with the ending; it gets a little boring when everything ends in “happily ever after”.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a new concept that described everything in great detail so I was almost never left behind. It was near impossible to put it down and I read every section in one go. This book was so interesting that I plan to look at Ernest Cline’s other works and also maybe look into some old time video games and see the infamous flashing sign that reads “Ready Player One”.
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