16 September 2011
Ready Player One
Ready Player One seems tailor-made for those of us who fondly remember the 1980s. But it's not a history book - it's a dystopic novel set, for much of the book, in the virtual reality of the OASIS in 2044.
Wade (aka Parzival) is a teenager who spends a great deal of his waking time in the OASIS. He goes to school there. He hangs out with his friend H there. And he searches for the keys hidden in James Halliday's OASIS - keys that will make him the beneficiary of Halliday's entire private fortune. For a kid who has barely anything beyond the clothes on his back (and a drug-addicted extended family), the Easter Egg hidden at the center of Halliday's world is his ticket to fame, fortune, and getting the heck out of the stacks of Oklahoma City. But Wade isn't the only one looking for this fortune - an evil multinational would like nothing better than to bend the free-expression reality of the OASIS to its corporate will and more privileged players than Wade use their considerable resources to go where he cannot.
Now, Wade is an obnoxious, over-confident, potty-mouthed, blowhard of a teenage male. The chip on his shoulder is that big. He's annoying. I didn't like him very much for about a chapter or two. If I had been reading this in print format rather than listening to the audiobook while driving I probably would have stopped reading around chapter three. I have little brothers - Wade is just a more extreme version.
But...the narrator of this book is Wil Wheaton. Yeah, that Wil Wheaton. His voice is absolutely perfect for Wade. He captures Wade's me-against-the-world mindset perfectly. He changes his voice and accent very subtly for the other major characters. He makes you care about Wade's crazy trek through what is essentially Indiana Jones in Myst (there are a few good twists and some total geek-out moments) and that's what gets you to the amazing, super-awesome, crazy endgame of the novel.
Every, single paragraph of this book is a love letter to the 1980s. It's a geekfest/mystery/cyperpunk adventure across all cultural forms. Do you like Blade Runner? Atari? Video arcades? 80s movies? John Hughes? Quest games? Dungeons and Dragons? Definitely, Ready Player One is for you.