Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
In a future of limited resources and failing infrastructure, humanity lives out its dreams in a massive virtual reality game-world. Wade Watts is a high school student, getting an elite education for free despite his impoverished real-world life, because that was the vision of the game’s creator: unlimited access to knowledge, for rich and poor alike, where every kid has a genuine opportunity to make something of themselves. But not everyone wants to keep it that way.
The original programmer is dead, and a prize is hidden in the game. Whoever decodes the clues first will inherit his billions—and control the virtual universe. Wade has been searching for years. If he wins, he can leave his life in “the stacks” behind, and he can protect the world he knows and loves. But big business is searching too. If they win, the world can say goodbye to free education. That could add up to trillions, and they’ll do anything to get it.
THE READING EXPERIENCE:
Level 1 – the N00b
Even if you know nothing about gaming or 80’s culture, Ready Player One is a fantastic story that anyone can enjoy. Wade is a tremendously likable main character on an epic quest against dangerous antagonists, and the save-the-world stakes are both believable and relevant in today’s world. (If you think universal access to unfettered education doesn’t seem like a big deal, take it from a team that spent several years representing kids in child services cases: it is.)
Level 2 – the MMORPG’er
If you’ve ever played a video game—especially a massively multiplayer online role-playing game—you’ll have even more to love. The virtual world that Cline has envisioned for Ready Player One is the kind of legendary experience any gamer would drool over. I mean, the kid gets to go to school in the game. You can buy planets and literally build worlds. Do you have a favorite spaceship? Build it! A castle dream home? Live in it! An imaginary alien pet? Create it! You get the idea.
Level 3 – the 80’s F4n4t1c
Not a gamer? No problem! Level three belongs to the 80’s fans, and you don’t have to be old enough to remember those years to love them. (But hey, props if you were alive for the decade.) Cline’s programmer character was obsessed with the 80’s, so his clues are heavily grounded in the culture. 80’s fans will appreciate the oodles of references to television, movies, music, and games that Wade soaks up as research for his quest.
Level 4 – the 80’s G4m3r
Finally, if you were an actual 80’s gamer—if you remember games on cartridge tape and dial-up modems and pixels the size of your thumbnail—your entire reading experience will be permeated with an added level of nostalgia. From TRS-80’s to first-generation arcade games, Cline transports the reader back to the very birth of the computer age. But don’t worry if this doesn’t apply to you. All the plot elements are well explained. It’s just an added level of fandom for vintage geeks—the unsung heroes who paved the way for the modern gaming era.
BOTTOM LINE: One of our all-time favorite reads. An epic quest story that transcends genre. Don’t miss it!