Here’s an introduction to the sprawling science fiction blockbuster Ready Player One
The hero, Wade Watts, is a poor, orphaned teenager, whose real life exists on the OASIS, a massively multiplayer online game. He is stuck with a third-level avatar. “Having a third-level avatar was a colossal embarrassment.” Wade is a gunter, looking for the creator’s secret Easter Egg hidden in the OASIS. “The Hunt, as the contest came to be known, quickly wove its way into global culture. Like winning the lottery, finding Halliday’s Easter egg became a popular fantasy among adults and children alike. . . . A new subculture was born, composed of the millions of people who now devoted every free moment of their lives to searching for Halliday’s egg. At first, these individuals were known simply as ‘egg hunters,’ but this was quickly truncated to the nickname ‘gunters.’”
The story begins in the laundry room of Wade’s aunt’s trailer, which is in the Portland Avenue Stacks of Oklahoma City. The stacks are neighborhoods of trailers-stacked-on-trailers in high-rise fashion. Wade soon scampers to his hideout, the space in the back of a cargo van buried underneath a mound of discarded cars and trucks, where he can log into the OASIS.
The story moves to the OASIS, where most of the story occurs. Here’s how Wade describes the OASIS: “a massively multiplayer online game that had gradually evolved into the globally networked virtual reality most of humanity now used on a daily basis.”
The hero’s best friend is Aech, whose real identity and name were a secret. “Aech pronounced his own avatar’s name just like the letter ‘H’” and he confided to Wade that his real first name began with the letter “H.”
“Aech’s avatar was a tall, broad-shouldered Caucasian male with dark hair and brown eyes. I’d asked him once if he looked anything like his avatar in real life, and he’d jokingly replied, ‘Yes. But in real life, I’m even more handsome.’”
Aech is a senior at OPS #1172, a high school on the virtual education planet Ludus in the OASIS. “He made quite a bit of dough competing in televised PvP arena games after school and on the weekends. Aech was one of the highest-ranked combatants in the OASIS, in both the Deathmatch and Capture the Flag leagues. He was even more famous than Art3mis.” Aech is also a gunter.
In time, Wade and Aech meet the legendary Art3mis, pronounced “Artemis,” another gunter who is famous for her gunter blog, Arty’s Missives. “Her avatar had a pretty face, but it wasn’t unnaturally perfect. In the OASIS, you got used to seeing freakishly beautiful faces on everyone. But Art3mis’s features didn’t look as though they’d been selected from a beauty drop-down menu on some avatar creation template. Her face had the distinctive look of a real person’s, as if her true features had been scanned in and mapped onto her avatar. Big hazel eyes, rounded cheekbones, a pointy chin, and a perpetual smirk.”
The villain is Innovative Online Industries (IOI). IOI “was a global communications conglomerate and the world’s largest Internet service provider. A large portion of IOI’s business centered around providing access to the OASIS and on selling goods and services inside it. For this reason, IOI had attempted several hostile takeovers of Gregarious Simulation Systems [which controlled the OASIS], all of which had failed.”
IOI also recruited legions of gunters to look for Halliday’s Easter egg. These mercenaries of the OASIS are called “Sixers” because they all have six-digit employee numbers starting with the numeral “6.” “To become a Sixer, you had to sign a contract stipulating, among other things, that if you found Halliday’s egg, the prize would become the sole property of your employer. . . . The company also provided your avatar with high-end armor, vehicles, and weapons, and covered all of your teleportation fares. Joining the Sixers was a lot like joining the military.”
This story feels like all your best memories of playing video games. Any kind of game. If you like space games, first-person shooters, quest games, arcade games, classic Atari, it does not matter. Ernest Cline included them all in Ready Player One. There is at least one scene dedicated to every kind of game, even video games that do not exist yet. (The one exception may be sports games, unless you consider the jousting in Joust to be a sport.)
You should read this book because if you love reading fiction, then you probably love a good escape from reality. Wade, the ultimate escapist who even goes to school in a virtual world, takes us on an epic journey through every kind of virtual adventure imaginable.
You may also want to read this book if you love 1980s movies, music, games and trivia. Or if you love geek or nerd culture. This book is chock full of references to everything we geeks and nerds love. Everything!
If you read this book, you’d better not mind nerd culture, endless 1980s references, and the word “sucks.” Wade likes that word a lot and a few other strong words now and then. And you’d better not mind a long book. It’s great, but it’s long.
Here’s a good part: “I walked across the chamber to the foot of the dais. From here I could see the lich more clearly. His teeth were two rows of pointed cut diamonds arrayed in a lipless grin, and a large ruby was set in each of his eye sockets.
“For the first time since entering the tomb, I wasn’t sure what to do next.
“My chances of surviving one-on-one combat with a demi-lich were nonexistent. My wimpy +1 Flaming Sword couldn’t even affect him, and the two magic rubies in his eye sockets had the power to suck out my avatar’s life force and kill me instantly. Even a party of six or seven high-level avatars would have had a difficult time defeating him.”
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