Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Ready Player One
I'm a nerd.

I will admit it. My husband reminds me all the time when I reference anything, well, nerdy. I like to think, however, that I am a casual nerd. I enjoy pretty mainstream nerd activity. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. The deepest I've ventured into nerd territory is either when I watched through the reboot of Battlestar Galactica a few years back or the years I knew about Comic Con events (only because of the LOST panels, I swear!). Anything beyond that, I claim "normalcy."

My biggest justification of my normalcy is the fact that I've never gotten into video games. Sure, I liked playing The Sims and Zoo Tycoon in my early teenage years, but who didn't? We never had a game console growing up and the only time my fingers perform with true dexterity and skill is on a keyboard, not a controller.

How I ended up with a book in hand that drew so extensively from the gamer world, I don't quite know. How I ended up enjoying it - well, that's less of a mystery. But, I'm getting there.

Ready Player One is set in the not-so-distant future. The world has basically exhausted its energy supplies. Travel is possible only for the super wealthy and the majority of the poor live in giant stacks of trailer homes. The population as a whole, rich or poor, spend the majority of their time on OASIS, a huge virtual reality world that has all but replaced real life.

The creator of OASIS, upon his death, left a treasure hunt for the world. The prize: his entire fortune and company. Growing up in the 80s, the founder was obsessed with 80s pop culture and wove its intricacies into his online game. Ready Player One follows the exploits of Wade Watts, a nerdy teenager on the hunt for the prize. Wade is the first player for land on the scoreboard.

Cline weaves in far more 80s references than I would ever be able to catch. I was a late 80s baby, so I caught a lot of the references, but not nearly all of them. Cline also used a lot of video game lingo and references - after all, the book is set mainly in a giant video game. Thankfully, he took the time to spell out the necessary explanations for us surface nerds. Of course, I'm also indebted to our podcasting friends Josh & Chuck for putting out an episode about D&D right before I read this book. It definitely helped me understand the sections that referenced that classic role playing game.

Easily the funniest part of the book for me was the reinvention of Columbus, OH. In the novel, the founder of OASIS hails from Middletown, OH. He sets up his empire in Columbus, consequentially turning it into a "high-tech Mecca." Having grown up in Columbus, it's so hard for me to picture it as a center of technological innovation, or really a Mecca of any type. (To all you Columbus-lovers out there, I realize it's a great city and has a lot going for it. I'm just saying...it's no Silicon Valley.)

In the midst of a fun, light-hearted book, one sentence really stood out to me. Cline describes this future world as one where "the era of cheap, abundant energy [has drawn] to a close..."  When I read that, I had this epiphany. I realized that we really are living in such an era. People in previous centuries could not come close to accessing the amount of energy we do. We hear about this era ending all the time, but I think this was first time I realized that this is probably going to happen for real in my lifetime. As any human tends to do, I think of my era as infinite, rather than the passing time it is. 

Ready Player One was very different from other dystopian I have read. I liked that. It was fun and very fast-paced. The continual need to find the next clue for the characters kept me engaged all the way to the end. It's probably a bit too nerdy for some, even a touch too far for me at times. Overall, though, I do recommend it - especially if you are an 80s kid!

Pages: 374
Date Completed: October 24, 2013

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