In a previous post, I mentioned how I was introduced to this book; Barnes and Noble sent an email about an offer on two books that caught my attention. After reading the synopsis of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, along with the first few pages that equated to the prologue, my interest was piqued;not least of which was due the appeal of the virtual reality utopia known as the OASIS, a story detailing an amalgamation of life and video game, and of course, a healthy dose of 80’s era references.
The OASIS, which can be accessed through multiple types of devices of varying price ranging from the basic, free ones our narrator, Wade, receives to attend school (talk about a little envy over here for being able to attend school virtually, the only thing I wouldn’t have been okay with in virtual form would be my books, but that’s another story), all way up to highly expensive rigs and haptic suits that are designed specifically to give the wearer the actual feeling and experience of what is happening to their avatar in the OASIS, including smell and touch.
What’s even more amazing about the OASIS is the free access to libraries, museums, movies, and more. The possibilities for experiences and learning in the OASIS are boundless. The main character even mentions that it is through the OASIS that he learned to read, speak, walk, and more, and he is hardly the only one in this book. Entire lives and relationships are lived out entirely and solely in the OASIS; truly the scope is hard to completely fathom.
The other side of the OASIS, the fun, gaming side, is another entity all its own, and yet is still part of the same universe. All avatars have an avatar name, Wade goes by Parzival (or Z by those closest to him), and it is with this avatar that they go on adventures, accomplish quests from thousands of possible games on the plethora of possible planets in the OASIS. Really, there is no better way to understand than by reading the book and becoming part of it in the story.
I do wish the book went into a little more detail about how certain aspects work in the OASIS. For instance, it took a few chapters to realize that yes, credits were transferable and usable both in the OASIS as well as outside of the OASIS (there was also no mention of conversion, not that it really matters, but I was curious). The other thing that I wish had been made a little clearer was how any possible language barrier was eliminated in the OASIS itself, or how it worked.
The story itself is entertaining and the lengths the villains of the story, the Sixers, headed by a man named Sorrento and hired by the IOI company, are willing to go to eliminate the competition are even frightening and will definitely keep you turning pages. As the tale evolves, the evil corporation, IOI, is interested in the ownership of the OASIS for what all corporations want, revenue makers, and the currently (mostly) free OASIS is ripe in such greedy eyes to be taken over and monopolized. Sorrento and his team of highly equipped avatars face off with Parzival, Art3mis, Aech, and every other Gunter (or Egg hunter) in the OASIS before the end. The deeper you delve in realizing just how far the company will go to obtain its goal is truly sickening and yet sadly unsurprising.
The lines between video game and real life are blurred beyond proper separation from the two; entire relationships can begin and end existing only in the OASIS, including marriages. Trusting people has another level because everyone in the OASIS is completely anonymous (unless you have the technology, bribery and skills to hack/steal your way into information on someone’s true identity as Sorrento and his team do) but generally, you’re safe in the OASIS as long as you’re careful with what you put out there.
Wade, as his avatar, Z, hunts for the Egg alone, competing not only with the Sixers, but also his friends. Aech (pronounced like the letter H) he has known for years, and the two guys hangout in a chatroom Aech hosts called the Basement, where they practice their Halliday knowledge and challenge each other in video games, in between going to school. Then, there is Art3mis, who Z meets after obtaining the Copper Key. After having a long time crush on her from her blog posts and comments, he meets her avatar “in person” inthe OASIS and the interaction seals Parzival’s heart.
The relationships aspects explored in the book involving the online versus real life interaction was done in a truly interesting way and I applaud Mr. Cline for his ability to simulate the closeness that only those who have made close online friends understand. The need for caution when dealing with your real identity is, however, still outlined as a necessity; it just leaves open the option to form close and lasting relationships as well. In this are a series of pictures that aptly describe what those who have found online friendship understand and what the close relationships in Ready Player One project to the reader.
The final reveal of the real identities and actual appearances of the people behind the avatars is certainly an interesting scene and I’m quite happy with some of the choices Cline made; this is particularly true of Aech’s story. I found the moment Z and Aech meet especially touching. Then of course, there are the hearts of Wade and identity behind the avatar Art3mis, which I will just say is worth the read.
For all of the wonder of the OASIS, Cline is sure to point out the dangers of living solely in the digital world and all that you might miss by not bothering to experience the real world around you. Ready Player One is a must read for gamer lovers and 80’s fans (especially where those two overlap). The style is easy to read and to pick up, the characters are easy to empathize and connect with; all around, this was an enjoyable read and I recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for something a little different and wants to read about a videogame/Willy Wonka-esque story.
Apparently there is now going to be a movie of this book…*sigh* ah, the love/hate relationships that is the movie based on a good book. We shall see….