Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

It is 2044, and Earth is not a place most people enjoy living.  Due to over consumption, energy is massively expensive so most do not travel.  Living quarters are cramped with multiple people sharing houses.  Jobs are scarce and most people just live off the grid. 

But there is one thing that makes life worth living.  OASIS.  OASIS is the next generation Internet, and gives everyone the ability to live in a totally virtual world where they can be anywhere as anyone, anytime.  OASIS is the brainchild of James Halliday, and he became so rich that he made sure it would be free for everyone.  When Halliday died, he left his entire mega-fortune to whomever could solve a series of riddles he had concocted around his fascinations; coding, video games and the cultural icons of the 1980s.

Wade Watts is one of the people who lives virtually.  The virtual world is so much better than his reality where he shares a trailer with 18 other people when his aunt lets him in the door.  Socially inept, his only social contacts are in the virtual world, where he attends school and has become known for his gaming knowledge. 

After five years of frantic searching for the answers to Halliday's riddles, the search has died down.  That all changes when Watts figures out the answer to the first riddle and becomes an instant celebrity.  He becomes friends with those who also figure out the riddle, and they all fight against a huge corporation whose only purpose is to solve the riddles, gain Halliday's fortune and take over the OASIS as a moneymaking venture, ending life as it is now.  Can the group of underdog friends use their knowledge and skills to outsmart the minions of the corporation?

Cline has written a wonderful novel.  The pace is fast, the plot satisfactorily twisted.  The real draw, though, is to those interested in technology, fantasy and gaming.  The book will remind all computer nerds (like me!) why they fell in love with technology and remind them of the mindless obsession that can keep one up all night getting to a new level or solving a technical issue.  This book is recommended for anyone interesting in a fast-paced quest with a satisfying resolution.

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