‘Ready Player One’ Offers Thrilling Video Game Plotline in Book Form


As the younger sibling of a brother whose hobbies mainly consist of gaming, I’m probably the most knowledgeable about computer and video games among my friends. My mediocre understanding of gaming, however, did not prepare me for the intense virtual universe of Ready Player One.

The book is set in the dystopian future of 2044, where the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) and virtual society known as the OASIS has taken the world by storm. Wade Watts, an orphaned teenager who has spent years of his free time immersing himself in the culture of the 1980s, is the main protagonist and narrator of the story. Like many others, Wade is a gunter — someone who is searching for the hidden Easter Egg that the OASIS’ creator James Halliday hinted about before his death

Despite being local Austin author Ernest Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One has been quite successful, even among the stacks of dystopian fiction on today’s library shelves. In an interesting parallel to the book’s plot, Cline announced ten months after the first edition release that the novel itself contained an Easter Egg that would serve as a clue and precursor to a series of video gaming tests. The grand prize— a DeLorean DMC-12, which is an iconic sports car featuring gull-wing doors— was claimed by Craig Queen in August 2012. Additionally, a fanfiction titled Lacero was published in the 2016 edition as a canonical prequel to the book. And on top of all of that, the movie adaptation of the book has been picked up by Steven Spielberg. It will begin production this spring, with the release date set in March 2018.

But enough about the post-publication clamor; let’s get on to the novel itself. The concepts introduced in the story weren’t particularly mindblowing and some of the plot points sounded rather familiar, but it had its share of interesting twists. As the story is narrated from the viewpoint of Wade— a geeky but otherwise pretty normal teenager— the tone is mainly conversational and relatable, with frequent undertones of sarcastic humor.

The one decisive aspect of the book that makes the reader either love it or want to burn it to ashes is the massive, heavy reliance on 80’s culture. If you’re an all-out ’80s geek, there’s a good chance that you’ll like the book simply because there are enough references throughout the story to satisfy you fifteen times over. If, like me, you don’t know anything about the ’80s, the whole thing can be a bit overwhelming.

Personally, I wasn’t too bothered by the name-dropping and dozens of references to pop culture and gaming, since I was interested enough in the story to keep reading. But for others, the immense, indispensable role that ’80s pop culture plays in the novel — and, for those who are less knowledgeable in that area, the feeling of exclusion that inevitably accompanies it — can be a turn-off. While the plotline isn’t horrible, it’s impossible to just ignore the cultural background without making the story lose something essential.

Overall, Ready Player One is a commendable book, with interesting characters and relatable humor. If you don’t mind some mild language and a deluge of ’80s culture and gaming references, this is a great read for you!