Book Review: Ready Player One

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately, some work related, some classic fiction (see my other blog, ‘100 school books‘), and some purely for pleasure. This is one of the latter, purely for pleasure.

‘Ready Player One’ (RPO) is the first book from Ernie Cline and, I must say, a brilliant one too. Taking an obvious passion for 80s pop culture and early games and gaming platforms, Cline has woven a view of a dystopian and gritty future into games and gaming lore, using Easter Eggs from games and films as a starting point to getting VR-enabled characters and a storyline into a complex story of, ultimately, loyalty and hard work. The story centres around a quest to find the Easter Eggs hidden inside the OASIS, a virtual reality platform used by everyone. And I mean everyone. It’s bigger than anything, including Governments (sound familiar?). Created by the mysterious James Halliday, OASIS is akin to a world where Facebook meets Second Life, but on a much larger scales then each of those has even thought or dreamed of. When Halliday dies and has no heir to his fortune, he leaves a simple quest … everything he has (including control of OASIS) will go to the person who finds the eggs and solves the riddles. There are three of them, and in the six years since his death no one has even found the first. The world is literally just waiting for the real quest to start, and ultimately end, before it moves on. 

And there starts the quest, the loyalty, the betrayal and the general quest to find and solve the puzzles. We focus on one person, his background, his avatar and his journeys through real-life and OASIS. Wade (real name) and his avatar (Parzival) come from the wrong side of life, orphaned and living with an uncaring aunt, he disappears to his hide-out and links to OASIS, where he is schooled and socialises. Wade progressed from a real school to a virtual one. 

I’m sure many of us reading RPO would recognise the idea of a virtual classroom, the concept it has matured and developed in RPO to the point where the brightest graduated from real-life classrooms to the OASIS / VR version. Whole schools exist in OASIS on a dedicated learning planet, ‘Ludus’, government-supplied VR headsets and equipment are available to students who are good enough for these schools, and it is from here Wade/Parzival can travel around OASIS. Travel is limited to those with enough credits, earned through quests or battles fought, or bought outright. Lessons are controlled, attendance is required and checked, too much absence could/would result in expulsion and having to return the VR headset, Wade’s only way of accessing OASIS and trying to solve the first clue to finding the Easter Eggs that will, he hopes, lead to the riches Halliday has left in escrow.

This is an awesome book, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Even if, like me, the majority of references to 80s TV shows (US only) and games are completely lost the details and cleverness of the clues and Easter Eggs will not be lost on the reader, and the suspense of the twists near the end (no spoiler from me, just go read it) will totally grip you.

Oh, and I read this properly, paperback. It seemed respectful to the book subject to read it in paperback, as it would’ve been presented in the 80s, where the books is kind of set (despite actually being set in the year 2044).

It is also worth noting that this is also about to become a Stephen Spielberg monster film (in the good sense), but I would be highly cautious of how much of this complex story of the future and past he will be bale to get into 90-120 minutes. This could quite easily be a 6-10 part mini-series, and would probably do a cleaner job of being true to the book if it was, but I’ll wait for judgement until I see Spielberg’s version … 

Held my interest: 9/10
Captured my imagination: 10/10
Worth reading: 10/10
Overall: 10/10

Image source: CG Society