Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Ernest Cline takes you back to the future with Ready Player One

The leading man of Ernest Cline's debut novel,Ready Player One,is named Wade Watts,an eighteen year old orphan living in "The Stacks"(a trailer park made up of stacked up trailers,the low rent equivalent of a high rise apartment)in the year 2044.

The USA,along with most of the world,has fallen into crippling poverty and decay,with the hard times seeming to be never ending. The only true escape left for all to enjoy is OASIS,the ultimate in interactive virtual reality available online the world over.

Wade,like so many others,lives most of his life online and hopes one day to discover the Easter Egg planted within OASIS by it's eccentric creator James Halliday,who died five years earlier,and claim the biggest prize out there;complete control over OASIS and the company's vast fortune.

As Wade and his fellow egg hunters(known as "gunters")do their vast research on pop culture pleasures of the past,with a strong emphasis on the 1980s,which is crucial to finding Halliday's egg,he develops a crush on a blogger girl called Art3mis who he's never met in the real or virtual world.

His dreams start becoming all too real when Wade acts on a hunch and winds up being the first person to discover the first of three keys that lead to the egg. Not only is Wade on the path to making more of his life both real and online,he also runs into Art3mis,who is only a step or two behind him in the search,and along with a few other gunter friends,make real progress in the hunt:

Their quest is not a safe one,as a vast corporation known as IOI is out to claim the egg and take over OASIS in order to turn it into a huge money making machine that will leave only a select few able to enter. IOI has an army of online henchmen at their disposal and their corporate exec leader tries to make Wade an offer he can't refuse and yet he does,with very tragic results.

Such a setback doesn't deter Wade,especially since he and Art3mis become close allies in the egg hunt. Their connection seems to be mutual and feels realer than the video game world they're in:

At one point,Wade declares his true feelings for her but Art3mis shuts him down. She doesn't want to be distracted from the hunt or turn Wade's attention away from it as well.

Also,there is a more than likely possibility that Art3mis is not who she seems,given that the majority of people logged into OASIS are nothing like their online avatars in the outside world.

Wade then channels his frustrations into the hunt which is getting more competitive as others in the race make huge strides ahead of him. While things look as if they're falling apart,Wade's distance from Art3mis is not for long:

A crisis point is reached,where the fate of more than one reality is at stake and the only chance to save OASIS from the clutches of corporate evil lies within a daring plan. The lives here may be virtual but the risks are all too real and for Wade,well worth fighting for.

Author Ernest Cline's other major writing credit is the script for the 2009 flick Fanboys and it's clear that he knows his geek speak thoroughly. The various references to everything from Monty Python to classic arcade games may be daunting but they don't hold you back from fully engaging the story.

Cline's storytelling skills are commendable,as he creates a fictional world that feels very plausible at times and fills it with compelling characters who face dangers that are physical,virtual and emotional(sometimes all at once). It's quite the juggling act but Cline catches each ball with ease and keeps you in suspense for more.

The book has been out since August and is available at a bookseller near you. Quite a lot of advance praise came with it and for once,the hype is well earned. Ready Player One is a great literary adventure that you can take in the comfort of your home and a triumph for genre geeks of all stripes everywhere:

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