Do you like videogames? Do you like 80s pop culture references? Do you like books about videogames replete with 80s pop culture references? Then Ready Player One might be for you. It tells the story of Wade, a teen living in the American Midwest circa 2041. Things are not going well in Wade’s future America; the economy is in permanent recession, the climate is wrecked, and most people live in miserable poverty. Wade lives in a suburban ghetto built from old trailer homes and cars. His only escape is OASIS, a highly sophisticated online environment that has its origins in games like World of Warcraft. Wade spends nearly every waking moment in OASIS, attending school, playing games, and hanging out with the avatars of friends he has never met in person. And like millions of other OASIS denizens, he is trying to solve a series of puzzles left behind by OASIS’ deceased founder, a reclusive genius. The first person to successfully complete the puzzle sequence wins complete control of OASIS and unimaginable wealth. Nobody has managed to determine the significance of the first clue in the years since the founder’s death until Wade experiences a pivotal eureka moment.
Author Ernest Cline isn’t afraid to let his geek flag fly and writes an affectionate tribute to gaming and pop culture obsessives. This is probably the only novel you’ll read that references Family Ties, Ladyhawke, and Cyndi Lauper. Much of the book is set OASIS, which allows for all sorts of narrative pyrotechnics. Cline sometimes makes the mistake of pushing the reader to be as enamored with the mechanics of his invented world as Cline so plainly is, but it’s a forgivable sin. Cline’s workmanlike prose keeps the tale of disaffected youth and nefarious corporations breezing along to a saatisfying end.