Ready Player One is a 2011 Science Fiction novel by Ernest Cline. It follows protagonist Wade Watts, and is set in the year 2044. The entire world spends the majority of their lives in the OASIS, a sprawling virtual reality that is an absolute utopia for players. Wade’s quest is the same as every other character in the book: to find the hidden easter-egg that provides the keys to an ultimate fortune.
This book really pleased the nerd in me. It’s consistent referencing of 80s pop culture is one of the strongest features throughout the novel. Everything gets a mention; from Star Wars and Star Trek, to Monty Python and John Hughes Movies, to classic arcade games and Zork.
Cline’s world-building is astounding. He borrows from established universes, embedding them within and embellishing them with his own OASIS universe. The OASIS itself is complex, with its own rules and regulations players and readers alike must learn. Cline’s imagination is truly brilliant.
The story itself is entertaining, if a little slow moving at times. It takes a while to get going in the beginning after delivering the initial crux, largely due to the necessity to introduce readers to the story world. This is by no means a problem. Once it does get going, it really kicks off. The cast of characters is wonderful and entertaining in their own ways, and each has their own little quirks that make them unique. They also set the story up nicely for some surprising twists and reveals later on.
Ready Player One falls victim to info-dumping on occasion, where the story is largely ignored in order to explain the OASIS, or to provide backstory or other such details. I don’t mind a bit of info-dumping; it comes with the expectations as a reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy, but in this novel it probably happens slightly more often than necessary.
Overall, Ready Player One is a fantastic read for Science Fiction lovers everywhere (especially if, like me, you love 80s culture and are a massive nerd at heart). Perhaps the most apt short description of this novel came from USA Today: “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix”.