(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction – Dystopian
Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Length: 372 pages
Publication: June 5th 2012 by Broadway Books
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?
‘Ready Player One’ is written in first person past with limited point of view. The narrator of the story is Wade Watts, an orphaned teenager living with his aunt and a dozen other people in a mobile home. Despite his dreadful, dilapidated, and unhealthy circumstances Wade has a relatively decent outlook on life. He understands the reality of the situations he’s in as opposed to a lofty, dream-ridden teenage mind.
Pacing: The novel had a lot of time jumps, including many of the gaming sequences, but understandably so. To explain every minor detail of playing an arcade would be boring. Thus, the book spans quite a large portion of time, but small scenes are taken out of this big chunk, which makes the progression of time for the book believable.
World: There are two worlds in this book: reality and the game world. Reality is a broken, run-down, energy-poor world: dystopian. It’s the epitome of dystopian and instead of trying to fix it, the people vanish into an alternative universe of the game world. The game world is basically every RPG ever made combined into one single video game, the Oasis. Anything you want to do is possible. It’s become such an integral part of this world’s reality that most jobs and work environments are even inside the Oasis.
Writing: The writing style is very specific. A lot of research was done to make sure that everything was accurate and that shows in the details given about the world. That being said, some of the information can be daunting for readers. In that sense, the writing does occasionally come off as bland, but the imagery is superb and makes up for any slower, information-heavy sections.
Non-Spoilered Plot: With the opportunity to win a fortune and free himself from the grim, dystopian circumstances of his daily life, teenager Wade Watts joins the Hunt to find Halliday’s hidden Egg in the digital Oasis. Even with spending every ounce of his spare time studying about Halliday and his obsessions, it takes Wade years to unravel the first clue. But he’s not the first to do it, nor will he be the last. With live-feed updates of the progress of the competition, thousands of others join the hunt behind him and it becomes a race against the clock to not only beat the quest, but to save his life from other egg hunters who will very literally kill him.
Character: Wade Watts is an orphaned teenager living with his food-voucher-stealing aunt in the stacks(mobile homes stacked on top of each other). Still, manages to be self-sufficient. He makes enough money doing small jobs to feed himself while attending virtual class in the Oasis to earn his diploma. It’s because of these harsh circumstances and the reality of the world around him that gives Wade his realistic, down-to-earth point of view on life. Though, he has his dreamer tendencies, specifically when imaging winning Halliday’s Hunt and earning a fortune.
Plot: The main plot is a typical hero’s quest except that instead of going on a long journey across vast lands, Wade can stay in an abandoned, broken-down mini van and travel vast regions of the digital universe to complete his quest. That is, until he uncovers the first key and beats the first gate of the quest. With his name suddenly on the scoreboard the Sixers are willing to bribe, threaten, and murder to win the quest and take control of the Oasis all for the sake of capitalism.
It’s only out of sheer lack and a tad of paranoia that Wade manages to survive their murder attempts. Yet, it’s these attempts that causes him to realize that there might be a world and people outside of the Oasis whom he cares about and needs to protect. Though, Wade knows the best way to save those people and the Oasis universe he loves so dearly is to win the game and put an end to IOI’s control, but that’s easier said than done when the next riddles from Halliday become even more maddeningly confusing than the first.
Thanks to the guilt-ridden conscious of gamers, Wade receives a little help figuring out the second clue. But he only barely clears the second gate when the Sixers swarm the gates and try to prevent anyone else from doing the same. Their so desperate in this, in fact, that they track down and murder Daito, one of the High-Five, or top five players on Halliday’s scoreboard, eliminating him from the Oasis, and the real world, permanently.
The drastic measures causes Wade to fully comprehend the lengths the Sixers are willing to go to pass all three gates and win Halliday’s Egg. He realizes he can’t hide any longer. He has to do something, even if it means subjecting himself to indentured service within the ranks of IOI so he can obtain information about the crimes the company is committing.
Though, he also obtains a video feed of the Sixers at the third gate with the crystal key. While they haven’t figured out how to open it yet, Wade realizes the answer. He must do the one thing he swore never to do in the Halliday Egg Hunt: team up with other players. But the gate requires three keys to open it instead of one. So, Wade rallies the last remaining members of the original High-Five, and with a little help from millions of Oasis members, they storm the gates of Halliday’s castle in the most epic battle ever known in Oasis history.
Of course, the best part of the battle was when the Sixers dropped the Catalyst which wiped out everything on the planet except for the crystal gate. Even having known the ending from the beginning since Wade tells us he won, there’s a sense of dread that they didn’t win, that the Sixers outsmarted them, and there’s no happy ending. It’s only through a series of fortunate events that Wade gets an extra life. With the weight of the Oasis on his shoulders and the voices of the High-Five in his ear, he manages to beat the Third Gate only moments before the Sixers.
And not only does he win all of Halliday’s fortune to split with the other High-Five members, but Halliday’s avatar transfers all his powers to Wade’s avatar, Parzival. Though, it’s in the moments after beating the third gate in which Wade realizes that’s really important: not the contest, not the game, not the money or prizes, but the people in the real world, the ones who stood by his side and helped him triumph and most importantly, the girl he fell in love with during his quest for ultimate glory: Art3mis. It’s this refreshing and adorable ending that leaves my rating for ‘Ready Player One’ at five stars.