Book review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (first published in 2011, film tie-in published in 2018 by Penguin Random House)

The year is 2045 and the future bleak. The Earth’s been ravaged by the depletion of its natural resources and most of humanity now lives in abject poverty, housed in overcrowded vertical trailer parks (called 'The Stacks') and getting by on food rations.

And since real life’s not much to look at, the human race has all but disappeared into the OASIS, an immersive virtual reality world created by 80s enthusiast and genius-computer programmer James Halliday.

High-school-student Wade Watts is such a real-world escapee.

When Halliday dies, he leaves behind a complex online contest. A puzzle of riddles, three gates and three keys, that lead to Halliday’s Easter egg, hidden somewhere in the vast universe of the OASIS, the finder of which will inherit Halliday’s company as well as his billions.

But it’s been five years since Halliday’s death and the contest’s online scoreboard remains blank.

In the meantime, Wade’s become a veritable fountain of 80s pop culture trivia, adopting Halliday’s obsessions as his own and becoming what’s known as a Gunter. A dedicated egg hunter.

As opposed to those who doubt the existence of the egg entirely, and the Sixers (contract hunters, under the employ of evil corporation IOI). Until, one day, Wade stumbles upon what everyone seeks, the location of the first (Bronze) Key.

Suddenly, Wade (or more accurately, his avatar Parzival) is the competition's hottest contender, and the Sixers’ prime target. To escape the players willing to kill, Wade must figure out who can be trusted and accomplish something even more harrowing, he must leave the confines of his digital world behind.

Ready Player One astutely examines online culture, lauding benefits while equally touching on dangers, especially those of online unity vs. real-life isolation. In the real world, Wade is alone and friendless. Online, Parzival is surrounded by OASIS gamers but needs to keep personal information (himself) hidden to ensure his safety.

I’m a nerd but not a gamer. I was born in the 80s but couldn’t say my heart particularly yearns for the decade. Still, I am crushing so hard on this read! Like, I actively have to stop my mind from obsessing over Ready Player One.

After more than a week, this story continues to occupy prime real estate in my head. There’s some bulky exposition, but it’s more than offset by the delicious addictiveness of this read. A full and brilliantly glowing 5/5 stars.  

Witty, compelling, with multi-layered puzzles and high-stakes action, Ready Player One is not to be missed.

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Read more of Meredith’s reviews on her Instagram account.

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