Friday Book Review

10 Dec

Review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

      James Halliday, the genius who created OASIS, the virtual reality that occupies the lives of most people in the dreary world of 2044, has just died. He left his fortune to whoever can follow his clues through his virtual world and find “the egg.”

     Several years have passed and no one has even found the first “key” in the treasure hunt, when a geeky eighteen year old boy in a trailer park on the outskirts of Oklahoma City finds it, and his avatar name “Parzival” appears on the scoreboard.

     Even for someone as ignorant of video game culture as I am, this novel pulled me in. Cline has not only written a gripping story, with good guys pitted against bad guys, but he has done it all in the context of avatars, virtual reality, and an obsession with 1980s pop culture. In order to reach “the egg,” players must be familiar with the Rubik’s Cube, the Walkman, and movies such as War Games and Monty Python’s Search for the Grail.

     The details of life in this future world, where the majority of the  population spends their time wearing visors and haptic suits that allow them to experience an alternate reality, are nothing short of amazing. “Parzival” even attends a virtual high school. Cline creates layers upon layers of virtual experiences with his knowledge of everything from Pac Man to prizes in Cap’n Crunch cereal. And his heroes must also possess this knowledge to reach the “egg” before the “Sixers” do, which means they have spent most of their lives watching ‘80s TV and movies and playing video games.

     This book is beautifully written and the humanity of the characters wonderfully portrayed with all their genuine emotions. It doesn’t matter that most of the story is told through their avatars. This is an unusual work that deserves a place among the best of innovative novels.

 {Review originally published in Suspense Magazine)

 

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