Though Ready Player One takes place in the not too distant future of 2044, it is very much a love letter to the 1980s. More specifically “geek” culture of the 1980s.
In Cline’s future, Americans live most of their lives in a virtual world called the OASIS. OASIS was created by James Halliday as an inexpensive, alternate reality for people to escape the world- now in the midst of an energy and, seemingly, quality jobs crisis. Ready Player One begins five years after Halliday’s death. In his will, he left his vast fortune and control of the OASIS to whoever can unlock the “Easter egg” (a hidden feature in a game, for non-gamers) in the world he created. A race to unlock Halliday’s clues has been underway ever since- pitting average users called “gunters” versus “Sixers”, players who have signed their avatars over to corporate behemoth IOI for kickbacks.
When 18 year old Parzival (Wade in the real world) unlocks the first gate in the hunt, an all out battle begins both in the OASIS and reality with very real consequences. Parzival is a loner who has formed a brotherhood of sorts with four other gunters- Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Shoto. But when he only knows people in the virtual world, who can he really trust with his life?
As noted, I listened to the audiobook read by love him or hate him geek icon, Wil Wheaton. Personally, I enjoyed his reading. He struggled a bit voicing females but that is not uncommon. Still, the story is told from Parzival’s first person perspective, so it does not really detract from the narration as the character’s tone is so central. Wheaton brought a geek’s enthusiasm to Parzival. If I had just read the book I am not sure I would have gotten as swept up in the story or felt the tension of what was meant to be a high stakes game.
Great literature this is not, but if you were a child or older in the 1980s I recommend this book as a fun read with pop culture references that will make you smile. Even if you were not a gamer or Dungeons and Dragons fan, the movie and musical references still made it relatable.