Ready Player One is an epic book, and one I was delighted to have picked up. The story revolves around the virtual reality online game known as OASIS, where millions log in daily to escape the dreary reality of the outside world, which has turned ugly after humanity drained the last of its oil. Wade Watts, the protagonist, is one of these people and like many he is obsessed with finding the last hidden secret of OASIS founder, James Halliday. Halliday died heirless and has promised control of the OASIS to people who can solves his riddles. The riddles remain unsolved, until one day Wade finds the key to the first riddle and finds himself propelled into a race to find the solution to the other three riddles.
The book is fun to read, and full to the brim with eighties references. Although the work is set in 2045, there has been a resurgence of interest in the eighties thanks to Halliday’s easter egg and Halliday’s well known obsession with eighties pop culture. As a result the game features many references to the eighties, and the riddles all contain numerous eighties references. I’m no eighties child so there were a few which sailed over my head, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of the plot too much and I found myself surprised at the number which I ended up understanding at the end.
I liked the romance between Wade and fellow gamer Art3mis. I expected Art3mis to be a typical tacked on love interest, the kind you see all too often in stories, particularly science fiction. To my surprise their romance actually felt real, and progressed at a decent pace. The plot didn’t go out of its way to make them suddenly love each other. It just gradually grew as time went on, and went through its fair share of hurdles before finally getting together at the end. I liked it, in part because it worked in conjunction with the plot and didn’t take it over, something which romance subplots are guilty of doing from time to time. I felt like Wade’s best friend, Aech, was a bit of a flat character until the end, then it was revealed that she was a woman all along. This was a brilliant reveal and really changed the way I saw the character since I thought she was quite boring back when I thought she was a man.
The late James Halliday, is also a fascinating character. Since the plot revolves around finding about his deepest secrets, it was pretty much a given that he was going to be developed as a character even though he is dead by the time the story begins. There is only one underdeveloped part of the story: the evil organisation, Innovative Online Industries or IOI. It is little more than a generic evil organisation which wishes to expand its business by acquiring Halliday’s easter egg so that they can control OASIS, willing to go so far as to kill people in real life to get to it. Nolan Sorrento, who is a high ranking official within the corporation in charge of searching for the easter egg, is also just a corrupt businessman who I didn’t see anything special in. I felt like their primary purpose in the story was simply to raise the stakes rather, and it worked in part since their presence helped the story mature a bit.
Upon reading, I felt like there were many elements to the story which would reduce my enjoyment such as the endless barrage of eighties references, but to my surprise I not only got most of the references but also quite enjoyed them. I very much enjoyed the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style plot. I thought that I would find it boring, but the moment IOI came into play, the story got more exciting despite my misgivings of them being a generic evil organisation. Overall, this book was a great nostalgia fest and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is into eighties pop culture. To my surprise this is one of the best science fiction books I’ve read in a long while, and there is no doubt that I will pick it up and read it again someday.
IN A WORD: AMAZING