There is nothing I love more than a book that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the very last word on the very last page. A book that you contemplate when you aren’t reading it and are constantly wondering what is going to happen next, is the best. A book that makes you think, is even better. I haven’t found a book in a while that holds me captive, but with Ready Player One I found that magic once again. This book reminded me of why I love to read, it has a very intriguing storyline, a great protagonist and it leaves you thinking at the end.
In 2044 OASIS is a virtual world that is an escape for everyone around the country. The real world is a complete disaster. The energy crisis has destroyed the economy along with the planet. People are desperately trying to scrape by and make it one day to the next. Life just seems absolutely miserable. OASIS is where everyone goes to escape and hide from the deteriorating world around them.
James Donovan Halliday, an avid gamer, is the creator of OASIS. He dies and leaves the most epic of treasure hunts in his will. He sets up a contest where everyone who uses OASIS can hunt down three keys and pass through three gates to ultimately find the “Easter Egg,” and win his fortunate; which is billions of dollars.
Wade is an orphan who is forced to live with his despicable aunt. He is determined to find the “Easter Egg,” and escape from the horrible reality that surrounds him. Wade ends up in a race to find the egg, where he learns what is means to have friends and learns what about the value of reality.
Halliday was a huge fan of the games, music and movies that he grew up with as a kid in the 1980s. I was born at the very end of the ’80’s, so much of things referenced in this story I only know about from my parents or from specials on TV. I imagine that if you grew up in the ’80’s with all of these things this would be a fun trip down memory lane for you. He references movies such as “Wargames,” and games like “Pacman.” If you know these games, movies or songs I assume it would be even more fun to find the clues and puzzles alongside Wade. Even if you are not from that generation, like me, it is still fun to go along on the journey. You can follow along and keep track of what is going on just fine.
I love these type of stories that have puzzles built in. I even like them more when I recognize the references and can make connections to what is going on. While this aspect of the story is fun and keeps the plot moving really well (except for one small portion in the middle), the development of Wade’s character is what really made me love this novel. The process of watching Wade change throughout this journey was very well done and was paced very well.
Wade, at the beginning, is a kid who has nothing left to him in the world. His parents are dead, he has no real life friends and no one to help or support him. OASIS is where he escapes to. It is the one place where he can feel like he belongs. He goes to school there and meets his one friend, Aech there. He is out to find the “Easter Egg,” initially so he can take the money and run away. He wants to be able to escape this world that he sees as dying and pointless.
Wade is the one who finds the first key, after five years of no one making any progress, and sets off this great race that becomes extremely dangerous for everyone involved. He spends the first half of his hunt driven by the desire to win so that he can get out of the life he is stuck in. Soon the tables turn and it is no longer just about him trying to escape. It becomes about him trying to save OASIS for everyone, as well as learning what reality really can mean.
There are a few points that are turning points for his character. One of the main ones is when he meets with Sorrento, the leader of the corporate bad guys Sixers. The Sixers are only out to win to be able to fully control OASIS and exploit it for their own purposes. They want to take it from being a sanctuary for people and turn it into a corporate controlled land. Wade refuses every offer they throw at him, even ones that will set him up with money for life.
I loved his interaction with Sorrento because we saw Wade stand his ground and refuse to give in. Even when he is given a chance to have what he always wanted; the ability to escape his miserable life. Here we see that he is out to win for other reasons. Even though he wants to the money he isn’t willing to sell out to get it. He still has morals and values and he isn’t willing to let those go just for money. I loved watching him stand up and fight back. I knew right away that he was going to be someone I could understand and stand behind throughout the whole book.
The other point where we see him changing is when he falls in love with Art3mis. She is another avatar that is out to find the egg, and is matched in skills with Wade. He almost stops hunting the keys and trying to puzzle out the clues because he spends more and more time with this girl. He wants to get close to her, even if it isn’t in the real world. For a brief time he seems almost willing to walk away from the hunt to have her. Though that falls apart when she rebuffs him stating that he doesn’t really know who she is. He then becomes determined to win, not only for the money but to be able to meet Art3mis in real life. Finally he has a reason to want to live in the real world, even if it is just to meet this girl face to face.
At the end of the novel there is a quote that I feel really sums up the story and what it is trying to tell us. “I created OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world… I was afraid, for all my life… That’s when I realized as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it is the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.” (Cline, p. 364). Wade learns by the end of the novel that reality isn’t the desolate land he always assumed that it was. Being able to escape, whether it is into a book or a video game, is great. We all need that escape and place to hide sometime but you can’t live in that place forever. Reality is where life happens and where life thrives.
This idea echoes so well for our day. We all can escape so easily into the Internet through our phones or computers. We hide online where it seems safe, which is again fine for a time but life is always waiting. The open air with real solid Earth beneath your feet and real people with all their emotions, good and bad, are waiting. Waiting to be experienced, understood and appreciated. Throughout the novel Wade learns, that yes, the world has its problems and can really suck sometimes, but it isn’t completely destroyed and hopeless. Reality is still valuable and irreplaceable and always will be.