Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Capsule Book Review

If I was like Oprah and had my own book club, this would be one novel that I would proudly put my sticker on. For a geek like me, Ready Player One was an amazing surprise. From the title, I guessed that the novel had something to do with 80s video games. However, I expected that it was more of a “growing up on the 80s” kind of story with a bit of Douglas-Coupland-inspired Gen-Xiness. I did not expect an adventure story that ran the gamut from dystopian sci-fi to D&D-style fantasy. The premise is that in the not too distant future, the world has gone to pot and most of the populace spends its time in a shared virtual environment. It’s a universe where people can create and own worlds, where teachers can take students back in time to learn history, where neighbourhoods can be recreated in all their sensory reality, where a person can play video games against a magical demon, and where people can party in a sphere-shaped, low gravity club. When the Steve-Jobs-like creator of the technology that made this all possible dies, it begins a virtual treasure hunt that he had set up so that whoever deciphers his clues and finds his secret treasure will inherit his entire company and holdings (including the virtual universe that they all inhabit). The story follows Wade, a master game player who (like the rest of the world) joins the quest to find that elusive prize, but things are so much more complicated than he bargains for. Along the way, Wade makes some interesting allies and also gains some powerful enemies. The story is surprisingly fresh considering how many elements are taken from other stories: quest adventures, sci-fi action, even a bit of young angsty romance. In fact, the entire book is like a mosaic of geek and popular cultures. There are references to 80s television shows, movies, video games, role-playing games, animation, toys, you name it. There are more references than even I knew (and that’s saying a lot!). I loved how Cline was able to take all those bits and pieces, like a giant junk box from our youth, and bring them together into a really fun novel. By the way, I listened to the audiobook, with Will Wheaton (aka Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: TNG) reading — a perfect match! 5 out of 5

Fan art by ~lerms

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