Ready Player One was such an amazing and exciting novel, and so different from anything I’ve come across before.
Set in 2044, the novel set the scene in a future that is, disturbingly, not too hard to imagine – as we consumed more and more, the effect we had on the planet, its resources and each other became harder for everyone to cope with. Poverty now runs rife in North America as the rich became richer and the poor became poorer. People tried to pack up their belonging and drive their families elsewhere – anywhere – but as petrol became unaffordable, cars and other vehicles were abandoned on highways. As others were no longer able to afford their mortgages, they moved their families into camper vans in trailer parks. This became more and more common, but involved caravan parks running out of space to house everyone, so the concept of stacking the caravan son top of one another came about and it is in these communities, now found everywhere and known as ‘the stacks’, that we meet Wade Watts.
Wade is a cool guy, I liked him a lot. He’s had a shitty life through no fault of his own, but due purely to circumstance. Both his parents died when he was young and he currently lives with his closest relative, an aunty who basically abuses her guardianship and only keeps Wade so that she can steal his food vouchers. This means that Wade has become incredibly self-reliant. He has found ways to look after himself, to find food, shelter, entertainment and even schooling. The only good thing about this new future is that access to the Internet and to wifi is readily available, even to the very poor. Through this, Wade is able to escape his crappy life and delve into the fantastical virtual world known as the OASIS.
Created by James Halliday (this was humorous as James Halliday is the name of a famous wine critic here in Australia and he has the James Halliday Companion Book about all the wines available that comes out every single year – so it was pretty funny seeing his name all the time throughout this book!), a computer programmer born in the ’70s, who experienced his teenage years in the ’80s, the OASIS is a virtual world Halliday created with the aim that everyone should be able to experience, no matter their wealth or status. As Halliday was a huge fan of all computer and pop culture paraphernalia that was around in the ’80s, the OASIS is full of references to Halliday’s favourite decade. Thus, when Halliday dies and leaves an Easter egg hunt for players in the Oasis to join in, it is completely made up of ’80s references. This was fun, but also it wasn’t necessary to understand every reference. I’m sure a whole lot went over my head without me even realising it – it sure didn’t detract from the story, which is great. However, it was always really fun when I could pick up on a really obscure reference to a 1980s song or movie. I also learnt a lot about arcade games!
I really enjoyed all the other characters that popped up: Aech, Art3mis, even Sorrento (and of course, sweet old Mrs. Gilmore).
The only issue I really had with this book was the amount of info-dumping that occurred. While this was very necessary to understanding the story, and mostly really fun to read, the first 60 or so pages are just Wade describing things (some things in particular, over and over) and I found this to be a bit tiresome. I wanted things to be happening a good 20 pages earlier. It was once a clue is revealed to us about the first key that things really started getting exciting for me. However, that being said, Cline has created an absolutely amazing world in this novel, both in the physical world that Wade lives in, and the virtual world of the OASIS. The thing I loved about this book was just how real it all felt. A lot of what had happened in this future or what was happening in the book, I could see happening in real life. For example, public schooling has now been moved over to being in the OASIS, which means that for Wade, no bullying occurs, and if anyone does try to harass you, you can mute them, and the other avatar can see this. I thought this was the coolest thing ever. Imagine being able to go to school, by logging in to a computer, wherever you are and only having to talk to teachers and people you want to. This also means that you can study ANY subject you’d like to, because as long as there’s a teacher teaching it somewhere, you’d be able to attend. But basically, I could see public schooling eventually evolving into something similar to this. The other thing I had no trouble imagining was the future itself – the quick crumble of society as the planet and the resources no longer cope with our demands. This was terrifyingly plausible.
This books ends in a really great way and I can see it being left as a stand-alone novel – but I could also see the potential for a sequel, especially with the amount of hype that now surrounds this book. I’m not too sure how I feel about a sequel, but I think I’ll just wait and see if anything happens! Ernest Cline has a few other previously published books which I am definitely interested in checking out – so I might take a look into those :)