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Ready Player One, a book review

If you’ve been paying attention to recent sci-fi literature or are generally in the know about all things nerdy, you’ve probably heard about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. It’s a novel set in the not-so-distant future where an expansive MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) called “the OASIS” has become the new reality for humans. Conventional civilization and society have gone by the wayside and all endeavors, capitalistic or otherwise, take place in the OASIS.

After the death of James Halliday, the inventor of the OASIS, a video of his will is released explaining that there is an Easter Egg, or hidden series of quests, programmed into the OASIS. A top-10 scoreboard is also integrated into the game, giving players the ability to track the forerunners in the quest for Halliday’s Egg. The search for the Egg becomes a massive worldwide effort, and the key to unlocking the secret is having an extensive knowledge of 1980s video games and pop culture.

The story is told from the perspective of Wade Watts, a teenager whose life is dedicated to hunting for Halliday’s Egg. His OASIS avatar’s name is Parzival, a corruption of Percival of Arthurian legend who is a crucial figure in the quest for the Holy Grail. Parzival becomes an unlikely hero when his avatar’s name is the first to show up on the scoreboard. I won’t spoil anything else by going into specifics, but the story is genuinely fun, surprising, and at times endearing.

I plowed through this book from start to finish in three and a half days, and it was an intense ride through waves of nostalgia. If you’re looking for a fun romp through the glory days of retro gaming with a unique sci-fi twist, I cannot recommend this book enough. Look for Cline’s next novel Armada due out in July.