Ready Player One is a science fiction novel by Ernest Cline. It’s basically Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for gamer nerds, which is a good thing. I’m a gamer nerd myself, who grew up in the eighties, so this was really the novel for me.
Ready Player One is the story of Wade Watts. It’s the dystopian future – a type of science fiction, for the uninitiated. Global climate change has made the world a bad place and people have retreated to virtual reality. James Halliday created a virtual game world and allowed the world free access. This simulated reality became so popular that everybody uses it. Then he died without heirs. His dying words were a mysterious riddle, calling out people around the world to compete in a treasure hunt in the game world to try and find an easter egg he placed there. The person to find it will inherit his fortune and gain control of the company running the game world.
Of course, a good novel can’t do without a villain. In Ready Player One, the villain is the largest ISP corporation in the world that became rich by selling bandwidth and wants Halliday’s company for themselves so they can monetize it. They are determined to win the contest by any means so they can gate off the virtual world to make a fortune.
For the Internet generation this will resonate with the corporate power grab that is currently taking place on the internet. The companies that provide us all global internet access are trying to gain control so they can charge both the content providers and the consumers for connecting them, and so making a killing, at the cost of everything that made the internet great.
The story has a similar premise as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. A very wealthy man has a contest that allows control of his ‘factory’ to outsiders. Wade, like Charlie, is a poor boy from a trailer park. The contest is his way out of poverty, where he has no other route to a better social standing.
Where the story differs from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – aside from one being fantasy and the other science fiction – is in the number of references to eighties cartoons, movies, and games. For those of us who grew up as nerds in that time – like James Halliday – this book is a trip down memory lane. The references are many and they keep coming, however, they don’t overshadow the central plot of the story.
I tore through this book in a week, but like I said, I grew up in the eighties. If the references to classic video games and movies mean nothing to you, you might enjoy this book a lot less. Still, the tale itself is timeless, and if you know anything about video games, or liked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this will also be a story for you.