Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ready Player One

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS - a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any one of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune - and remarkable power - to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved - that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means to escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’ oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt - among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Bow the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life - and love - in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

What do you get when you cross Willy Wonka and Tron and cover it in a healthy sprinkling of 80’s pop culture?

This book is nerd gold. Determined, under-appreciated kid goes on a quest through a virtual world filled with X-wings and Deloreans and twenty-sided die in search of an Easter Egg in the game that can lead him to the creator’s fortune and legacy. Along the way, he discovers fame, friends, consequences, and enemies who are willing to do anything to keep him away from the prize.

I’m not actually an 80’s kid. Born in 1988, I missed most of the decade and can’t remember the two years I was alive for, but the things in this book still had a big influence on my childhood and I have found myself watching/reading/playing the things in this book over the course of my life. This book would be a fantastic story even if the puzzles weren’t based in the real world, but having such a good story wrapped up in things that I love makes this an incredible story.

If you like classic arcade games and comic books and Star Wars, this book is for you. It’s a mashup of the best coming of age stories and the best things in nerd culture. I’d definitely recommend it.

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