Monday, May 14, 2012

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, many people escape ugly reality by living in a virtual world, OASIS. You can work, play and even attend school there. The original programmer, James Halliday, was enamored with the coin-operated video games of his youth. That is why READY PLAYER ONE is "always the last thing an OASIS user saw before leaving the real world and entering the virtual one."

When Halliday dies, he leaves all of his wealth to the person who can solve a treasure hunt online, one which requires extensive knowlege of 80s pop culture and video games. It's a geek extravaganza with cut-throat action. If your avatar dies, it's game over. But the stakes are so high that some players will kill each other in the real world... if they can be found.

Wil Weaton narrates the audio version for Random House [15.5 hours] (creating a nice bit of irony when Star Trek: The Next Generation comes up in the storyline). It would have been nice to have more vintage electronic sounds included, rather than having them described only, but that's a quibble.

I remember some of the sounds because when I was about 21, I was addicted to Atari games like Pac Man, Space Invaders and Frogger. After recognizing what a time-waster this was (and experiencing cramped muscles from hours hunched over a game), the only way I could quit was cold-turkey. I might be sorry about that if I ever have the opportunity presented in Ready Player One. Sympathetic characters, a thrilling plot, an online romance and a trip down nostalgia lane are a winning combination for author Ernest Cline.

This is an adult novel that will appeal to older teens. (It doesn't really matter if the 80s are familiar to the reader or not.) The only readalikes I can think of are teen novels: Epic (Conor Kostick); Little Brother (Cory Doctorow) and Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd. You might also want to re-watch the classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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