I don’t play video games, I don’t watch many movies, and I don’t know a thing about the 80’s. But I loved this book.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (now a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, which I have not yet seen), was a book that didn’t depend on your knowledge of literally anything in the book. Sure, maybe it would have been more relatable had I ever played the game Joust. Maybe it would have been more impactful had I ever seen the movie War Games. Maybe if I knew more of Star Trek than just the name.
But I don’t know those things, and yet, I found this book impossible to put down because the structure of it, the framework, the plot, and the characters were so real. That was the only thing that mattered.
They could have been playing completely made up games, just like the OASIS is made up. They could have been watching movies that never existed. It didn’t matter.
The point was, this book is about a dystopia. A world that has gone to shit, which, perhaps we’re not that far away from. It’s a world in which your virtual life is better and more lived than your real life. You can completely escape reality and all you need is a headset in front of your face. You can be poor in the real world and rich in the OASIS. You can be stuck in your mobile home in the projects in the real world, but an adventurer, traveling the world in the OASIS.
And the plot of the book all happens in this virtual world where nothing is real anyway. So who cares if I didn’t recognize a 1980’s reference?
The scary thing about this book was that I could see this fictional world of virtual reality becoming an actual reality in the near future. People are already hopelessly addicted to their phones, computers, televisions and video games. People already have virtual chat rooms, they already have virtual friends whom they’ve never met, online dating is a real thing, and you can be whoever you want to be online and let people only see the side of you that is beautiful, strong, funny, or adventurous. We already sit at our desks too much, get too little exercise, and have groceries delivered to our front doors. We already voice text, we stream live events, and we have invented technology that makes our world completely automatic from light switches to temperature. We already have electric cars that drive themselves on autopilot. We have a virtual assistant in the palm of our hand, who can put things on our schedule, remind us of birthdays, tell us the news, do our research, and tell us jokes. Hell, we even already have virtual money in the name of Bitcoin.
The more I write this out, the more terrified I become. We’re only one small step away from this dystopia. All we need is a government funded program that puts a VR headset into the hands of every person in America and we’re there. Before we know it, we’ll start stacking mobile homes 42 high, and after the world runs out of natural resources within the next 40-50 years, we’ll all be eating subsidized meal packets grown out of a petri dish.
Maybe the picture I painted is bleak, but clearly, it’s not far off. This might have just been a great book to point this out and open our eyes.
To sum up, this book is about a boy, Wade, who is poor, lives in the above-mentioned stacks of mobile homes, and lives his life online, in the OASIS. The creator of the OASIS has died and left the world with a challenge to find the hidden Easter egg in the OASIS, by going on a quest. The players will need to find three keys that open three gates. The catch is that they need to know all about Halliday’s life and interests in order to solve the clues he’s left. And his passion was the 1980’s. Wade, his online friends, and thousands of others have dedicated their lives to mastering every old 80’s video game, watching and memorizing every 80’s movie, and knowing every 80’s trivia. It’s everyone for themselves, until they come up against the corporate group known as the Sixers. The Sixers want to win the Easter egg so that their corporation can monetize and overhaul the OASIS for their own profit.
In the midst of that, Wade falls in love, finds out who his true friends are, experiences death, and becomes a fugitive.
So, if you’re into science fiction, video games, the 80’s, or even just a well-written book, this one is for you.