Review: Ready Player One | Ernest Cline

Other than books, video games have been a much-needed escape for me, particularly the ones where I’m killing zombies and saving humanity. Video games get a bad rap, often being referred to as “time-wasting” and “mindless”. Obviously, I would hardly call them “time-wasting”. This is 2020; if you’re not prepared for anything – and I mean ANYTHING – then I’d argue that you’re the one wasting time (this argument sounds better in my head). Also, anyone who calls them “mindless” has clearly never played any of the Resident Evil games. Give one a try without Googling the walkthrough. That’s not a dare, it’s a challenge. Sure, you can learn dances from Fortnite and post your version (or whatever it is you think you’re doing) on TikTok, but let’s see you solve some of the puzzles in these games without using hints. I think you’ll find it a bit harder than flailing around like an idiot for your iPhone camera.

Anyhoo, video games: they’re the best. When Ready Player One hit theaters I could not wait to watch it, and here’s where it’s my turn to look like an idiot – I didn’t know it was a book. In fact, I didn’t find out it was a book until about a year later. And I didn’t read it until a little over a year after that. Consider this revelation my TikTok dance.

I love this book but before I explain why, allow me to begin with this: it’s almost nothing like the movie. The few things the book and the movie have in common are the characters, the 80s (best decade EVER) references, and a couple of scenarios. That’s about it, and the book is still incredible.

The protagonist, Wade Watts is a teenager in the year 2044 who is living with relatives in a run-down mobile park that is described to look like something a 6-year-old would build with those large legos (probably something we’re headed for, at this rate). Like the majority of the nation, Wade is an active participant in the hunt for video game designer James Halliday’s Easter egg that’s hidden in his creation, the OASIS. What’s the OASIS, you ask? It’s a virtual world that sounds about 98 times more fun than ours. In the OASIS you can be anyone you want. There, Wade is known as Parzival and early on, becomes even more known for becoming the first player to figure out and complete James Halliday’s first challenge.

Throughout the book, Wade/Parzival moves through challenge after 80s challenge – one being an entire walkthrough of the movie WarGames where he has to recite Matthew Broderick’s lines word for word and I’m sorry but that sounds like the greatest. All the while he’s trying to stay alive in the real world as a company known as IOI is trying to track him down and stop him from finding the egg (and winning billions of dollars) before they can find it.

Beyond gaming and being surrounded by everything 80s, there’s plenty of depth to the story as well. Along the way, Wade/Parzival makes friends, falls in love, and discovers that the most important things in life don’t necessarily involve money.

This book is a real page-turner; if you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you give it a chance. It’s a fun and temporary escape, even if that escape only lasts until 2044.

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