Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ready Player One

Imagine a world thirty years from now where things have devolved.  The recession has only gotten worse, the education system has fractured, and class differences have become entrenched. Entire communities have grown from stacking mobile homes on top of each other to the height of skyscrapers, held together only by weak scaffolding. Imagine being a teenaged orphan living at the top of the stacks, having to hide your valuables so that your aunt and uncle don't pawn them for drug money. Clearly, the only way to escape this bleak reality is an obsessive knowledge of 1980s pop culture trivia. 

Not following? I probably should've mentioned that James Halliday, a legendary billionaire video game creator from Middletown, OH, died with a will that bequeaths his entire estate to the person who is able to find the "Easter egg" inside the virtual reality he created, and in which many people spend most of their time and money. The video game creator was a child of the 80s whose affinity for video games and movies of that time were well-documented. The race to beat the system and find the hidden clues is serious business in 2045.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is pure homage to 1980s geekdom. Wade, the 18-year-old protagonist and narrator is likable and sympathetic, and his virtual friends are entertaining. Cline is a clever writer, and it's easy to imagine that Halliday's obsessions and interests are his own. I'm not sure how people who didn't grown up in the 80s would relate to it, but the references to John Hughes movies were gold for me. I've never played Dungeons and Dragons, rarely played video games, and my knowledge of movies like Blade Runner has come entirely from conversations with my husband, so I'm certain there are references I missed, but I was still able to appreciate the story. If you've got an appreciation for 80s pop culture and dystopian future all wrapped in one tidy package, this is definitely the book for you.

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