Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The novel “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline was published for the first time in 2011.

James Halliday created OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), a virtual world that in the 2040s has become in some ways more important than the physical world because anyone can access it for free and build a parallel life within it. When Halliday dies, he leaves his creature as an inheritance to anyone who can first solve a series of challenges based on easter eggs concerning the 1980s.

Wade Watts is a teenager who lives in the poorest area of ‚Äč‚ÄčOklahoma City and has idolized James Halliday all his life, so he knows perfectly well all the pop references that could be useful to win the challenge. However, he’s only one of the millions of “gunters”, as the easter egg hunters are called, who want Halliday’s legacy. Among them, there’s also the head of operations of IOI (Innovative Online Industries), a corporation that would like to exploit OASIS for commercial uses and has the means to get rid of competitors even in non-legal ways.

“Ready Player One” is a novel that right from the title tells a story that, despite being set in the 2040s, is strongly based on the pop culture of 60 years earlier, in particular on the video games of the time. Written as a sort of diary of the protagonist Wade Watts, known as Parzival among the gunters, it contains several instances of infodump that allow even the readers who didn’t live in the 1980s to understand at least in part the many references to that era regarding video games but also music, cinema, and more.

All those references are a crucial element of “Ready Player One” not only because they’re central to the plot but above all, because they’re the only memorable ones. The plot is absolutely elementary, the characters are quite stereotyped, and the future described is also a stereotypical dystopia since Ernest Cline only focuses on what concerns the 1980s.

The world of the 2040s is in a serious energy crisis due to the consequences of fossil fuel depletion and yet there’s a gigantic virtual system that seems to be used by a good part of the world population. I would expect the people who in 2022 have strong complaints about the energy consumption of Bitcoin mining to plant bombs within OASIS systems but it seems that everyone likes it. We’re talking about a system that uses enormous amounts of resources but is completely free even with no advertising and no one seems to be paying for it. In essence, it’s a total violation of the principle that if you don’t pay for a product, you are the product.

The protagonists are stereotypical nerds. They’re almost all males and needless to say, the only female, known in OASIS as Art3mis, is the object of Wade’s teenage love. Nolan Sorrento of IOI doesn’t even have a defined personality but he’s just the villain who wants to get control of OASIS because he works for a corporation that represents evil incarnate.

I grew up in the 1980s and played for many hours on the Atari 2600 console I had at the time but I’m not nostalgic, so the countless references to that decade in “Ready Player One” didn’t cause me orgasms. The movie based on the novel, also titled “Ready Player One”, extends the references and uses the more adventurous part of the plot to increase audience engagement. The novel may appeal especially to readers who can understand and appreciate references to the 1980s.

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