Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This title is the perfect read for computer gamers and nostalgia fans. It takes place in 2044, in a world ravaged by a global energy crisis where human civilization is either in decline or collapsing, depending on who’s doing the talking. Wade Watts lives in a “stack” outside Oklahoma City. In reality, a stack is a bunch of trailers stacked on top of each other, connected laterally and and vertically by haphazard girders, beams and footbridges. These originally formed with the energy crisis forced rural folks into the urban areas, where land became to valuable to waste on single family homes. Hybrid shantytowns is how the author describes them. Wade has lived with fourteen other people in his aunt’s trailer since his mother overdosed, and his situation is all too typical. Like most other people, he spends his days lost inside OASIS, a huge, globally networked virtual reality universe. In OASIS, you can be anyone you want, look anyway you want, and live in any of the ten thousand planets. Wade even goes to school there. The game was originally designed by computer genius James Halliday, who on his deathbed made a video promising his entire $240 billion fortune to whoever could find the hidden “Easter Egg” he’d built into the program. Using his love of 1980’s pop culture, millions of people have tried to solve the puzzles leading the the ultimate prize, but no one has even solved the first puzzle, until Wade Watts stumbled upon it and immediately became a target for fortune hunters and even corporations willing to do anything to gain control and OASIS and the Halliday fortune.
This is an amazing book. Although it was written for adults, teens interested in gaming, 80’s nostalgia and general geekdom will find much to like. Those of us who were around in the 80’s will love the references to Pac-Man, the various John Hughes movies, and vintage TV shows like “Family Ties.” Surprising to me, many of our students relate to these times from living in Berkeley, a city always nostalgic about times gone by. Cline tells his story at a brisk pace with a sly, sarcastic humor, nearly guaranteed to keep most young adults interested in the book. I recommend to all types of readers: gamers, geeks, science fiction fans and anyone looking of a fast, engrossing novel.