Ready Player One
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a wonderful, explosion of fun. I loved it.
The year is 2044 and the world is quickly becoming a very unpleasant place. Resource depletion has caused the contraction of suburbia. Many people now live in stacks–essentially stacked up trailer courts. As the real world becomes more unpleasant, many people have retreated to the virtual world of OASIS–a vast multi-world simulation environment. This is an interesting concept by itself–the voluntary retreat of humanity into the virtual to escape the real, but Cline adds a really cool idea on top of that and then runs with it. In Cline’s words from his Big Idea piece:
What if an eccentric video game designer, sort of a cross between Howard Hughes and Richard Garriott, created that ubiquitous virtual reality platform? And what if he decided to find a worthy successor for his company by turning his last will and testament into the greatest video game Easter Egg hunt of all time? It would be an epic treasure hunt, in a simulated universe that contained thousands of virtual planets. And those planets could be modeled after fictional worlds from other novels, films, comic books, and TV shows. It would be the ultimate storyteller’s sandbox.
So, in addition to an interesting virtual world, we have a cool treasure hunt. And, if you have a cool treasure hunt you need cool treasure hunters. Enter, one Wade Watts–a seventeen year old treasure hunter (Gunter in their terms). Wade spends his days going to a virtual school in Oasis and most of the rest of his time pursuing clues to the hunt for the three keys that will lead to fulfilling James Halliday’s puzzle will (James is the above mentioned eccentric) and the two hundred and forty billion dollars and control of OASIS that will represents.
Making this whole thing even cooler is that the clues and knowledge needed for solving the will-puzzle are contained in ’80’s nerd culture. The games, movies and music of the 80’s were Halliday’s obsession and so become the necessary background for his quest. This was pretty cool for me in that I pretty much lived a lot of what the book has as background info. I graduated high school in 1982 and went to college for 82 – 88. During that time I saw all of the movies the book mentions, played a lot of AD&D and variants of the video games (more time on Wizardry and Rogue than the Atari games that got mentioned).
So, massive virtual world, quest, fun treasure hunters, let’s see what else? Oh yes, some evil enemies. Evil, in this case, takes the form of the Sixers. The Sixers are essentially the army of IOI (a massive conglomerate) that is trying to solve the will first and gain control of OASIS–not in a good way. IOI will stop at nothing to get the prize. Nothing in this case includes murder and enslavement in the “real” world.
I recommend that you also stop at nothing and go read the book. Great fun.