Friday, February 8, 2013

Ready Player One

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An Easter egg that holds the key to an eccentric billionaire's fortune is hidden in the virtual reality world of OASIS - and a high school boy has just deciphered the first clue.

Wade Watts, master of obscure 80s geek culture, lives in a trailer park stack in the energy-starved America of 2040. His only relief from his dangerous life comes when he plugs into the expansive OASIS to hunt for the holy hand grenade of questers all over the world. To figure out each clue, he must rely on his extensive knowledge of 80s pop culture touchstones - from Ladyhawke to Dungeons&Dragons to Atari. But he has stiff competition - not only in the form of fellow questers, but also the ruthless corporation IOI and its hordes of "Sixer" hunters - men and women hired to hack the game to win control of OASIS. Can one otaku hope to prevail?

I only happened to be born in the 80s and have never once played an arcade game or entered the World of Warcraft, but I read this book in a day, sucked in by its puzzle premise. Cline pays tribute to leagues of gaming geeks without mocking them. In fact, he shows the value that connections forged in virtual reality can have IRL (though eventually Watts realizes that going out into the sunlight now and again might be a good idea). It lacks Snow Crash's electric style, but Ready Player One is another great trip through a fun and vivid virtual world.

This book would definitely appeal to fans of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. (The premise reminded me of Ellen Raskin's children's book, The Westing Game, too.)

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