Series: Ready Player One #1
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Released: August 16, 2011
IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
Ah yes! Fast-paced, entertaining, never-boring, just-clever-enough, geeky, video-game-related action!
Ready Player One takes place in an extremely bleak vision of the future, but it’s a future in which almost everything takes place inside a virtual world anyway. So who really cares about how decrepit the real world has become? (Most of this book certainly doesn’t.) In the virtual world one quest looms over all, a quest in which everyone can take part, a quest where the winner will be granted the highest reward imaginable. We follow a young hero who hopes to succeed in this quest, and he finds himself having to compete not only against his peers, but also against an extremely resourceful, extremely evil, faceless, caricatured, Evil Corp-esque organisation which will stop at nothing to finish the quest first. Throw in an extremely generous amount of references to video games and 80s music, and the scene is set for a whole lot of fun.
The book cannot be accused of diving too deeply into anything at all. A whole spectrum of waiting-to-be-explored themes are touched upon which all deserve more time and exploration than this book gives them. At some points it almost seems a little absurd how heavy social and moral issues are mostly grazed over and abandoned in order for the story to move on. Did I care? Not really, the story was too entertaining. The book pushes enough buttons just far enough to serve it’s selfish purpose of moving the story forward. It’s obvious that the book is very aware of this, and any shallowness comes across as very deliberate. There is a very interesting book to be written which spends more time on many of these issues, but this is not it, nor does it pretend to be. It’s packed with an impressive number of geeky references with various levels of subtlety, and is clearly crafted very deliberately, hitting (for me) just the right balance between the nerdy, the bleak and the fun. It’s pure enjoyment which really shouldn’t be thought too hard about. And I enjoyed every page of it.
It doesn’t quite knock Daemon off my top spot for this general genre, but it gets very close. It’s one of those books which I’d recommend to anyone without reservation. Just make sure you don’t start reading it if you have anything important you should be doing, because this is a hard one to put down.