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Ready Player One Nostalgic, Futuristic

Katherine Dotter, Publication Adviser

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From the first pages of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, the reader is pulled into a fast-paced digital treasure hunt that explores the depths of human nature and corporate greed.

Although Ready Player One is Cline’s first novel, he is not new to writing, Cline wrote the script for the 2009 movie Fanboys. Ready Player One is also due for a film adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tye Sheridan, which opens March 30, 2018.

Set in the dystopian future of 2044 where the world faces crippling resource shortages, the story centers on teenager Wade Watts as he joins the search for clues that will lead to a treasure left behind by an eccentric billionaire.

That billionaire is James Halliday, creator of the OASIS, an immersive online virtual reality universe where people go to escape from the harsh reality of life in the real world, where economic collapse has led to most of the population living in makeshift shanty-towns on the edges of major metropolitan areas.

The treasure in question is both Halliday’s multi-billion-dollar fortune and control of his company and therefore, the OASIS, which he has hidden inside the video game world as an Easter egg.

Watt’s main motivation for joining the search is to escape from poverty, as he lives in the laundry room of his aunt’s trailer, a double-wide inhabited by 15 total people, perched atop a stack of other trailers in a trailer park known as the stacks, outside of Oklahoma City.

Finding Halliday’s Easter egg embedded in his virtual universe is a multiple-year endeavor that involves immersion in the pop culture of the 1980s, with which Halliday was obsessed.

The book is at times, maddeningly technical, but is a treasure trove of 80s references that has the odd effect of making the reader remember the movies and songs referenced, while simultaneously making them seem 60 years old.

Egg hunters, known as gunters, watch, play and listen to the movies, games and music of the 80s obsessively, trying to find hints to help solve the clues on the road to Halliday’s egg.

Employees of the IOI Corporation, which wants to increase advertisement in the OASIS and charge users a monthly fee, are also hunting for Halliday’s Easter egg. The employees, who are under contract to surrender the prize to IOI, all have identical avatars in the OASIS and are known by their employee numbers instead of names, earning them the nickname sixers for the six-digit numbers that all start with six.

The heart of the book is the dizzying digital race between good, in the form of Watts and his fellow gunters, and evil, in the form of the sixers and the IOI Corporation, which will stop at nothing, including murder, to gain control of the OASIS and Halliday’s fortune.

Through the pages, the reader is thrown from good to evil, from futuristic to retro, from the real world to the virtual: a whirlwind of opposites.

From the first pages through to the conclusion, Ready Player One is every bit as immersive as the video game at its center.

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A Study in Opposites