Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready? 

Review

I bought a copy of this book as a payday treat for myself at the end of January and, shockingly, it’s not ended up sitting on the TBR pile for over a year (as most of my purchases do).  When handing it over to the staff member at my local big W; Ash (a most EXCELLENT bookseller) gushed about it and guaranteed I’d love it.  I think he even hugged the book a little bit.  High praise indeed.

The book’s plot is a little complex to sum up but essentially it’s an adventure story with a deadline for a prize that money could never buy.  The world as we know it has crumbled and is in massive trouble.  There is a small piece of salvation in the form of a virtual reality game where people live, work, interact and exist within.  This world was created by a genius gamer who made trillions from it and upon his death, creates a contest within the game in the form of a hide-and-seek puzzle for his fortune.  This book is the story of Wade as he discovers one of the hidden ‘keys’ and then the unfolding action as the clock starts ticking to find the rest.  It’s the ultimate prize at stake with high risks to achieve it.

This was a fantastic read that mixes past, present and future to look at the roots of humanity and how we engage with our reality, as well as how we ignore it too.  Wade is a captivating character who changes as his power and his reality in the OASIS shifts.  He’s come from hardship, like most people in this version of the future have, and see’s this competition as his ticket to freedom.  However, as he learns, freedom has a price and it often costs more than you’ve got to lose.

A real mish-mash of 1980s nostalgia with science fiction and a ring of truth to it.  This future could happen; there is a possibility that this could be us down the line.  This leaves a dark shadow over the story and bad taste in your mouth with every page turn, but you can’t help turning those pages to see what happens next.

A great story that’s smart and fast-paced.  Ready Player One has that great balance of adventure and heart in it and I’m so pleased I treated myself twice; once when I bought it and again when I read it.  It’s a cult classic and I can see why.

Published by Arrow, an imprint of Random House, and is available online and in bookshops now

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