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The '80s inspire a fast-paced cyber-quest

  • Oct 14, 2011
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In Cline's dystopian 2044, economic and environmental collapse has left a great divide between the haves and have-nots. Most of the world is a crumbling, junk-strewn place overrun with predators. Many people live in "stacks," mismatched trailers piled vertically atop one another.

No wonder 18-year-old narrator and protagonist Wade Watts, like most people, spends most of his time in a beautifully designed virtual reality called OASIS. OASIS is a magical world where everyone chooses their face and form through avatars. It's a place of 10,000 planets where almost anything is possible, from love to magic, even school.

It has a few things in common with the real world, however -- in order to travel, go on adventures, acquire magic and protection -- one needs the OASIS equivalent of earnings. Which are easier to get once you already have some. Wade, though smart and techno-savvy, is too poor to get ahead.

But he has hope. James Halliday, genius designer of OASIS, an eccentric loner without family and with only one estranged friend, died some years earlier, leaving his billions to the person who can solve his final puzzle. Inside OASIS are three hidden keys, which will take the player through three portals and lead finally to the prize egg.

Clues? Halliday, a child of the 1980s, remained fixated on his formative decade's video games and pop culture. All the clues are hidden therein. Wade, like everybody else, has become an expert on the '80s, but so far no one has succeeded in getting even a toehold in Halliday's final big game.

Wade, of course, makes the breakthrough, the first step. But just barely a step ahead of the woman he loves from afar. And on his heels is the evil corporation IOI, which hopes to take over OASIS and turn it into a huge moneymaker, beginning with charging for access.

Things get ugly in the real world as well as the virtual world as IOI determines to win at any and all costs and Wade needs to find a way to guard his human body and outwit the corporation -- and everyone else breathing down his neck -- while pursuing Halliday's ever more complicated puzzles.

A fun read, even for those, like myself, who don't know much about video games or '80s culture. For all I know, half the '80s stuff could be fictional, not that it would matter.

Cline keeps the level of suspense high and creates a dazzling, magical world in sharp contrast to the gray ugliness of reality. OASIS, with its teleportation, magical dangers and powers, and its exquisite, self-contained planets, is an enchanting place.

Still Wade and his few friends remain aware that OASIS is not the real world. They don't even know each other's real-world identities or what they actually look like behind the attractive avatars they inhabit. This creates a certain insecurity that never quite goes away and a niggling fear that real life is passing them by.

How Wade deals with the evil corporation, his own -- and others' -- ingenuity, competition, cooperation, romance, friendship and the problems of real life, make Cline's debut a cyber-quest for anyone who enjoys speculative fiction.

--Portsmouth Herald

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review by . October 25, 2011
The year is 2044 and the real world is a cold, depressing place. Unemployment is so high that there is a two year waiting list to work at a fast food restaurant. The environment is pretty much in a shambles, there's a severe energy crisis, famine is everywhere. The only escape is OASIS, where most of humanity spends its waking hours. OASIS is a massive virtual galaxy where your avatar can be anything you want it to be, it's a place where you can live, play, quest on any of the thousands …
About the reviewer
Lynn Harnett ()
Ranked #182
I love to read, always have, and have been writing reviews for more years than I care to say. Early on, i realized there are more books than there is time to read, so I read only books I like and mostly … more
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2011: Ready Player One takes place in the not-so-distant future--the world has turned into a very bleak place, but luckily there is OASIS, a virtual reality world that is a vast online utopia. People can plug into OASIS to play, go to school, earn money, and even meet other people (or at least they can meet their avatars), and for protagonist Wade Watts it certainly beats passing the time in his grim, poverty-stricken real life. Along with millions of other world-wide citizens, Wade dreams of finding three keys left behind by James Halliday, the now-deceased creator of OASIS and the richest man to have ever lived. The keys are rumored to be hidden inside OASIS, and whoever finds them will inherit Halliday’s fortune. But Halliday has not made it easy. And there are real dangers in this virtual world. Stuffed to the gills with action, puzzles, nerdy romance, and 80s nostalgia, this high energy cyber-quest will make geeks everywhere feel like they were separated at birth from author Ernest Cline.--Chris Schluep

Guest Reviewer: Daniel H. Wilson on Ready Player One by Earnest Cline
Daniel H. Wilsonis theNew York Timesbest-selling author ofRobopocalypse.

I dare you not to fall in love with Ready Player One. And I mean head over heels in love--the way you fall for someone who is smart, feisty, and who can effortlessly finish your favorite movie lines, music lyrics, or literature quotes before they come out of your mouth.

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