Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’ve actually had this one done for about a week; I wanted to get over my initial impressions and be able to review this book in a calm, objective manner.

Yeah, right. That’s not going to happen.

When someone has experienced just too much nerdiness at one time, they are saidto have a nerdgasm. The person usually goes into a state of shock and can’t speak for up to 1 hour. Never distured a someone who as recently nerdgasmed because the person is prone to just spurt out random nerdy things that regular people could never comprehend.

That’s how Urban Dictionary defines the word “nerdgasm.” And that’s pretty much what I experienced as I read this book. From the first page to the last, there is a plethora of pop-culture, video game, computer geekiness that is really hard to contain, so I took a week to try to contain myself. But it really didn’t work — I’m still having some of the aftereffects.

First, the plot summary: James Halliday has died. Halliday is the developer of the most completely immersive virtual universe ever known: the OASIS. Everyone on the planet is impacted by the OASIS in some way or another — many make their living in the OASIS, creating things to sell to other ‘players’ to enhance their experience. Halliday died, and left no heirs.

And so a massive scavenger hunt begins. Halliday left clues to the locations of three keys, which open three gates. Whoever is the first to open all three gates gets the whole thing; they will be the owner of the OASIS, and the billions of dollars that Halliday has left behind. And there are some people who will do anything for that kind of money — even kill — in the Real World.

Halliday’s clues are all based in his love for the 1980s, and this is where the geekiness comes in. It was fun to see all the references to movies, music, and computer games that I grew up playing. You’d think that I’d have been able to solve these puzzles along with the main characters — but you’d be wrong. The clues are cryptic enough that you really have to think outside the box to be able to solve them. Well, that or devote your entire life to trying to solve the clues and find the keys.

And that’s what our main characters do. They watch War Games until they can recite the dialog by heart. They practice playing old Atari 2600 games until they can beat them in just a few hours (at one point, the main character plays a perfect game of Pac Man on the original arcade machine!).

I read the first 22 chapters in one day. I took breaks, of course, but from the time I got up until I went to bed that night I read 22 chapters. I would have read more but I couldn’t stay awake — I finished the book the next day.

The book is not only a fun read, though; it’s also a pretty good commentary on an increasingly wired society. People in Cline’s universe spend the majority of their time in the OASIS — and the Real World has gone down the tubes. Of course, that means people want to escape more and more, so they spend more time online, and there goes the spiral. The book is a near-future science fiction work, set in 2044, so it’s just far enough in the future that technology has improved, but not so far into the future that we can’t relate to the people there. They’re our kids and grandkids; in 2044, my daughter will be 43 — exactly my age right now. This is a look at her possible future, and it’s not really a bright one.

The book also has some commentary on religion — as anti-religion as the main characters are, I found it interesting that they were actually very religious. They had a holy book, they had scriptures, and they had their own ethical code that they lived by. Even as they rejected organized religion, they organized their own religion without even realizing it.

One thought kept running through my head as I read this — WHY didn’t they create an Alternate Reality Game to promote this book?! If any book ever has been, Ready Player One would have been perfect for the trans-media treatment, and potentially a real life scavenger hunt.

If you haven’t already bought this book — WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??! Click that link up there at the top and get a copy or two. You’ll be glad you did — just brace for the nerdgasm.

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