“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

I was recently visiting with my friend Arwen, when she abruptly changed the conversation and said she had a great book to loan me that I should read. Since Arwen is as much of a geek as I am (we both dressed in Star Trek uniforms when we attended MoogFest), I figured I’d go with it. The book she handed me was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. She told me it was a quick read, steeped in 80’s culture, and that I’d totally relate to it. She wasn’t kidding.

The story takes place inside a virtual reality world called OASIS that functions as part game, part social network. After the developer of the OASIS dies, it is made known that an Easter Egg (a hidden object within the code) exists within the virtual universe and that whoever finds it first is awarded the developer’s vast fortune. Essentially, it’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for geeks.

I do not consider myself a gamer, although I occasionally play games with my kids on the Wii, and I certainly spent time in video arcades in the 80’s. That said, I was still able to connect with the characters and the challenges they had to face playing the various games within OASIS. I even found myself fondly reminiscing about the days when I would spend an hour or two depositing quarters into Space Fury to challenge the one-eyed alien. But the aspect of the book to which I really connected was all the 80’s pop culture.

In the story, the developer who hid the Egg was obsessed with the culture of the 1980’s, the period in which he had been raised. As a result, the clues to the location of the Egg were all tied in to the films, music, videos, and publications from that period. It brought back a flood of memories, particularly related to films and music. I even decided to watch “WarGames” again with my daughter (remember that one, with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy – I confess I own the DVD).

Ready Player One will not win a Pulitzer Prize, but it’s really fun and entertaining, and in these angst-filled days, fun and entertaining can be a good thing. I recommend reading this book, especially if you have ever listened to RUSH on a vinyl record, watched “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” more than three times, and blew your allowance in a video arcade at the mall.

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