A Total Inability To Connect

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline Well, what more is there to say? I'm floored. Flabbergasted. Shocked and awed. Completely surprised yet unsurprised. Ready Player One was at once everything I dreamed it would be, and yet so much more.

For some reason, I repeatedly hesitated to buy this book. I'd read the reviews, both from normal readers and from numerous authors whom I honestly respect deeply. I'd noted the fact the book had overwhelmingly positive thoughts pushed towards it, something that's usually a good sign. However, I'd seen some detractors - those who said it used 80s references for cheap tricks, that it was overdone, that it was cheesy, pointless and childish.

And, honestly, about 75 pages into the book, I sort of agreed. It felt a bit hollow - a cool idea, but the 80s references seemed a bit forced, pressed in for no reason other than to make people of this generation go "awww I remember that!". Then, suddenly, shit got real.

Set in 2044, the entire world is crumbling. Meanwhile, the people of said world manage their depressed lives by spending most of it jacked into a virtual reality MMO, called OASIS, created decades prior by some kind of evil nerd genius who grew up in the 80s and 90s, like most people who read this book will have. Upon his death, a video is released announcing a challenge inside the OASIS game. A series of challenges really - a scavenger hunt. This hunt is as much a method of the 80s/90s obsessed creator getting everyone in the world "into" the amazing nerd cultural items of those decades by force as anything else. The kicker - his entire billions of personal wealth, plus the control of the company that runs OASIS, is the reward for winning this treasure hunt. Wade is a member of a group called "gunters", whose entire life is devoted to completing this contest and winning the bajillions. Many of these are people who are already social shut-ins.

The story is essentially the adventures of Wade and his group of online buddies; others who emerge as the frontrunners in this contest and compete to battle off the evil IOI Corporation, who spend their considerable funds to control much of the OASIS world, and to equip their thousands of professional gunters to win the contest so the corporation can take control of OASIS forever and use it to make money and do other evil somesuch things while cackling and twirling their waxed mustachios. The corporation goes as far as to kill one of the gunters who Wade is associated with, causing the others to band together, with the help of the game's benevolent co-creator, to defeat the evil empire.

The story itself is heartwarming, nostalgic, and an absolute blast. Along with the extreme level of references, many of which made my nerd parts tingle frequently (especially the fascination with RUSH), the story itself had character conflict, a good vs. evil aspect everyone can relate to, ups and downs, twists and turns, romance, bromance, and everything else I look for in a novel. The writing is above average, the dialogue is expertly written to make people like me squee, and the story moves along at a rapid and enthralling pace.

I have very few negative things to say - I could understand why certain groups would find this book much less entertaining. However, in the end, the nerdy references are a bonus more than anything; something to make you happy, make you smile, make you reminisce. The story moves along despite them, and is an excellent tale of a poor shut-in overcoming the evil empire with the help of his friends, becoming a celebrity and a billionaire and getting the girl. It's everything that every nerd fantasy involves.

And I'm a-ok with that.