Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

 

why is it so rare for science fiction to tackle the subject of video games head on? it seems obvious, considering we live in the year 2011 and there’s no flying cars, no household robots and no common space-travel (which are all stuck in a rut and still seem far off), but there are things called video games that would absolutely boggle the minds of people from before they were invented. Video games (along with cell phones and computers in general) are what’s “futuristic” about the modern day and yet sci fi rarely asks the question “what is the future of something that in a little over 30 years went from Pong to Crysis?”

enter Ready Player One, the debut novel of Ernest Cline, one of the screenwriters of the movie Fanboys (the original incarnation before the much publicized changes) and friend of Aint It Cool News owner Harry Knowles, that answers what video games might be like roughly 30 years from now, the answer of course, is “fucking cool”

the plot of the novel is such, in 2044 there is something called “OASIS” which is basically a futuristic MMORPG played by pretty much everyone where you can pretty much do anything, wanna be Superman? you can, wanna visit the Star Wars universe? you can, any fictional world you can think of can be visited. Five years prior the owner and creator of OASIS James Halliday died and left his giant fortune and control of OASIS up for grabs to whoever could solve his riddles, find three keys and unlock three gates and find The Easter Egg, to do so however you need to be as obsessed with 1980’s nerd culture as he was, enter Wade Watts, the only guy nerdy and obsessed enough to succeed, but he’ll have to fight a fascist corporation that will stop at NOTHING to find the prize and take control of OASIS and ruin it for everybody by charging for access

the book is jam packed with 1980’s references, if it’s at least semi well known and from the 80’s, chances are it’s referenced in this book, I always had a feeling something like this was coming considering how insanely popular 1980’s culture is these days, but thankfully Ready Player One has enough going for it that it’s more than just a list of pop culture references, what I would compare it to is The Venture Brothers, in that there’s lot of pop culture references, but it doesn’t use it as a crutch to make up for a lack of story or characters

this is a seriously brilliant book, like any great science fiction novel, a lot of it is basically a metaphor for the modern day, it captures the modern zeitgeist perfectly, the world outside of the virtual OASIS has gone to hell, wars, environmental calamity, an even worse economy, no gasoline, a weak government and a fascist corporation that has stepped in and uses sweatshop like methods here in America (let’s watch and see if something like that happens), of course there’s a big sense of ennui in America today and a lot of people (me included) find an escape into not only video games, but 1980’s culture and nostalgia, the fact that inside OASIS, a virtual reality where you can do literally anything you can imagine, people still love to play virtual recreations of old arcade cabinets and video game consoles says a lot about the human desire to escape to a seemingly simpler and better past as much as any other fantasy

I have a feeling that this book might wind up being the Jules Verne’s From Earth To The Moon of our time, that is to say a science fiction novel that’s predictions basically come true, I know one thing, SOMETHING like this is gonna happen, there’s going to be a virtual reality video game like this one day, what’s gonna stop it? video games have changed so much in 30 years that there’s literally no telling what’s in store

I cannot recommend this book enough, it might even be on the list of my favorite books ever (it’s certainly one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years), if you want a taste of Things To Come then check it out, here’s hoping the movie is just as good

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