Initially, getting in to Ready Player One was easy. The main protagonist, Wade Watts, introduces himself in first person and quickly begins to describe the world in which he lives and his personal struggles. Not to get into the weeds of specifics, he lives in a dystopian future that has resolved itself to log into a virtual world called the OASIS. Here in this virtual world, people forget the trials and hardships of their real life and become whatever they want by creating an avatar and remaining anonymous by using an alternate user name by which celebrity can be attained.
Wade or Parzival (a play on the name Percival), is what is called a gunter (fun word), which stands for egg hunter. Already, you’re thinking, “Does that mean he’s some kind of chicken farmer in this virtual world?” No, unfortunately, that is not what he is. Gunters are those OASIS users who are searching for three keys (copper, jade, and crystal) which will open three gates that will eventually lead them to the Easter Egg hidden within the vastness of the OASIS by its creator. Whoever finds it, inherits the creator’s wealth and more. The problem is, it’s been years since the contest to find the Easter Egg was announced and no one has made headway to discover the location of the first key (copper).
There, I have to stop because otherwise we get into spoiler territory. Honestly, the book is a fun read with plenty of sub context our society can grab a hold of as we become more advanced in our technology and move into this virtual otherworld. VR technology for video games is getting better by the year and soon enough, I would not be surprised to see us “plug in”.
A major plus in the book for me is the references to late 70s and 80s pop culture. The creator of the OASIS was a teenager during the 80s and therefore his difficult home life was medicated through the movies, music, video games, and comics of that decade. I was born in the mid-80s but I have held onto that decade more than I did the 90s when I was an adolescent/teenager. So many of the 80s references in the book hit home for me. From classic arcade games to Rush lyrics, I found myself trying to decipher the clues to the keys and gates, thinking of the 80s and what they could mean.
Ultimately though, the characters were spot on. Wade and his friends were strong and fun to go on the adventure with. Anonymity is a huge theme in the book. People perceive avatars through the OASIS but personality comes through despite appearances. Wade learns this along the way. There’s this desire to know who his friends are in reality but the fear that to do so might affect their relationships after being “exposed”. How much do we see in our society today people striving to fix imperfections and form their identity by any means possible? Identity is a major theme in the book and by the end, I really felt I understood it and was able to think about it on a deeper level.
In closing and here’s your “Call to Action”, give Ready Player One a read. If your a fan of the 80s and all things pop culture, you’ll get a kick out of the references. Plus, Steven Spielberg is directing the film adaptation and I can’t wait to see how the movie turns out!