It's the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We're out of oil. We've wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty and disease are widespread.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS - and his massive fortune - will go to the person who can solve the riddles he had left scattered throughout his creation.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based on Halliday's obsession with 1980s pop culture. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle. Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions - and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.
I love Ready Player One. I adore it. As I declared rabidly on Twitter, I would marry this book if I could. A little over the top? Possibly. But it's been a long time since I've read a book that leaves me with a complete ear-to-ear grin as I'm reading it, and then makes me want to immediately open the first page again on finishing it. I LOVED it. I suppose I'd better try and sum up why this is for you readers, since just me LOVING it (yes, the caps lock is justified) won't encourage you to part with the readies.
Okay, put yourself in my shoes. You were born in 1980. You lived many of your first experiences during the decade that gave us stone-washed jeans and made Wham! famous. You gloried over the Atari ST that your dad brought and played some of the very first pixelated computer games. You and your brother spent one whole summer ensconsed in front of a computer trying to complete Commander Keen IV - first bickering over whose turn it was, and then teaming up in an effort to get through the final level. You spent hours puzzling over riddles in various computer games. You ADORE Ladyhawke, every damn minute of it, including the score - and you're prepared to beat up any naysayers. Picturing all of that?
If you can well, basically, Ready Player One was written for you. Add in an enduring love of Rush (seriously, I own all their albums and have been to see them live three times) and the fact one of my cats is called Kira and I honestly felt as though Ready Player One was speaking straight into my soul. Sappy, huh?
And still not a good enough reason for you to pick it up. How about this? Behind the geeky charm and the unadulterated fun is a very sharp look at what the future might hold for us - from true immersion into a higher form of Internet, to indentured slaves who owe too much money on credit cards; from trailer "stacks" due to lack of space to varied solutions to the end of fossil fuels. This is killer stuff, because it feels so much as though it could happen, as though we're only one step away from these events.
There is also rather fierce social commentary going on within the pages of Ready Player One. We have people hiding out in the OASIS because their online avatar is the person they would rather be. There are people who consider themselves brothers because they spend so much time together as "gunters" (Easter Egg Hunters) in the OASIS and yet have never met in real life. Again, it is an easy step forward from the online communities we're all inevitably part of now.
All of this is wrapped up in a plot that could be deemed a little familiar - but, I would argue, only in the same way that an 80s movie is predictable and warm. I mean, we all knew that ET would get home, as would Marty McFly, right? We knew that Luke Skywalker would defeat the bad guy. We knew that Indiana Jones would solve the puzzle ahead of the Nazis. So, for me, Ready Player One is only paying homage to these classic films.
I'm not sure what else I can say to make you buy this book. If you're an 80s child, you'll love the references. If you're a geek, you'll love the references and dig the plot. If you're a sci fi afficionado, you'll love the references, dig the plot, and admire the subtle discussion on what our future has to hold. If you just love a damn good story where you can probably guess the outcome but appreciate the journey anyhow, then Ready Player One is for you. This book rocks HARD!