Big Dave’s Book Cave: Ready Player One

“Ready Player One” – In the Cave with Dave

Going into the new year, I decided to make my resolution to read at least 1 book a month. Reading for fun has always been something that I wanted to do, but just never really got around to it. I’ve bought books, and even a Kindle. However, my motivation to read was fleeting and I never seemed to make any progress. The books just sat there in perfect condition, or my Kindle never showed progress past 2%.

As I get older, my yearn to learn has never been greater. I wanted to find a way to hold myself accountable to accomplish my resolution. After discussing the idea with Vic and Stu, I’m starting my own book club and review column. Welcome to Big Dave’s Book Cave!  Throughout the year I will review a various array of books, and then sharing my thoughts. Let me know if you want to read along or have suggestions.  We are going to start with a fun one, which happens to be a work of fiction that is being made into a Steven Spielberg film set to release in March, “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.

We all know that virtual reality is a huge part of our future, and Cline did a great job of imagining how it might manifest in his dystopian novel. Set in the near future, 2044, RPO depicts a bleak United States that is in the midst of multiple crises: energy, food, real estate, etc. These crises drive the popularity of OASIS, the virtual game of the time, which has been an outlet for so many people to escape their downtrodden realities. OASIS was created by James Halliday, who I envisioned with the brains of Elon Musk and a Richard Branson like appearance. Halliday died in the year 2039 and in his will he wanted to find an heir for OASIS along with his $240 billion dollar fortune. So he created a worldwide challenge that anyone could participate in, a scavenger hunt which revolved around the finding of three keys; copper, jade, crystal.

The book starts 5 years after the announcement of Halliday’s Easter Egg hunt, in which none of the millions of hunters have made any progress towards finding a single key. Some are hunting on their own and are nicknamed “gunters”, who pride themselves on being individual hunters.  Some civilians are hunting in clans to raise their odds.There is also an evil corporation, Innovative Online Industries (IOI), taking a crack at the egg hunt. IOI has seemingly unlimited resources and want to take over the OASIS to make money off it.

This is where our protagonists comes into play, 18 year-old Wade Watts, a.k.a Parzival in OASIS. Wade is a poor kid living in the Oklahoma City “stacks”, which are stacked trailers common at the time due to massive inflation of real estate. Unhappy with his normal life, Wade seems to have no hope. Except for his love of the OASIS and to hunt for the egg. He is an extremely smart kid, who has mastered almost every video game, read every book/comic/etc, and has learned as much as possible about James Halliday. Halliday was well-known to be a connoisseur of 70-80s geek culture and video games, so several Gunters consider entertainment like Pac-Man and Star Wars as studying. Eventually, Wade makes a breakthrough in his search for the copper key, and is the first person in the world to make it onto the public leaderboard in the hunt for the egg. This begins an adventure that takes Wade places he’d never imagined.

Cline does a great job setting the scene and making you feel like you see the OASIS.  I only described few chapters from the beginning, which sets the book up for a fun ride the rest of the way.

The book is filled with references to pop culture in the 80’s, particularly video games because of Halliday’s obsession with the era. This is the part that I am most interested to see on the big screen. Part of me is sad in some sense, because my visions of the story are going to be destroyed once the movie comes out.However with modern CGI and Spielberg at the helm, I have confidence that it will be done the right way. With several of Spielberg’s work referenced in the book, he knows the space. Interestingly, he’s trying to limit references to himself in the movie to avoid vanity.

With that being said, if your were thinking about reading this book, or are excited about the movie, I would recommend reading it before the movie. Once the movie is out, the suspense and excitement that the book offers will be tainted in some way.

Another reason I would read the book again was due to some of the predictions that Cline made about the future. The book was published in 2011, and set in 2044, so he is imagining a world that is not so far away. A time that we hopefully will see in our lifetime. We can see now that VR and AR are starting to become mainstream, something that would have to happen in order for something like OASIS to be created. Something like OASIS almost seems inevitable at this point, I just hope our society will take the right steps to avoid a downtrodden future.

At the very least, the book has motivated me to start thinking about my own version of the Easter Egg hunt before I meet my demise. Forget leaving your standard will, I think Cline was onto something with the idea of postmortem treasure hunts.

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