Tuesday, February 18, 2014

80's Nostalgia and Cyberpunk

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Simply put, Ready Player One is a cyber punk, no holds barred, adrenalin- fueled nostalgia ride of the 1980’s. It follows Wade Watts, with the gamer tag of Parzival, in the near future as he goes to school, scrounges for power, and practically lives in OASIS, a huge virtual world. Most of Wade’s time is spent his quest to solve the riddle, the golden ticket of his generation. A series of clues and journeys created by James Halliday, the inventor of OASIS, which will give the winner a massive fortune and the keys to the kingdom, control of the entire OASIS network. Halliday was obsessed with 80’s culture, so every hint and puzzle are intrinsically tied into the arcade games, TV shows, movies, and music of the 1980’s.

Admittedly, large chunks of the effort on scene development and descriptions seem to largely be aimed at dropping as many references to 80’s sci-fi, pop culture, and video games as physically possible. While this can sometimes get a bit out of hand, Cline does provide some interesting social commentary with his descriptions of the OASIS system, specifically how many people are using it as an escape from the world, almost to the point of being a drug addiction. Cline also presents an interesting take on free speech versus advertising as a motivation for a number of players in Halliday’s quest.

While Ready Player One does not dig overly deeply into many issues present in cyberpunk, he certainly manages exhibit them in an entertaining, albeit heavily fan-serviced, manner. You do not need to be incredibly well versed in the 80’s to enjoy this book. Cline makes so many references, that you are bound to come across one that you like.

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