ReRead – Ready Player One By Ernest Cline
Normally when I write one of these articles, I prefer to choose ReWatch or RePlay, however, this time I have chosen ReRead. What am I re-reading you may ask? Well, you may not ask as you can plainly see in the title I am re-reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Although, I should clarify, that in this case I had it read to me by Wil Wheaton.
Ready Player One was first published on August 16, 2011 and written by author Ernest Cline. Ernest has a fascination with nostalgia, especially the 1980’s. As I was a child growing up in the ’80’s, I really enjoy all the references that were made. Some people have differing points of view on that aspect of the book, but it suits me just fine.
Ernest also wrote the book Armada, which is another nostalgia laced novel. Also, add to his credits the writing of the screenplay for the 2009 film Fanboys. He did write the script in 1998, it just took some time for the rights to get purchased and then turned into a film. Ready Player One is going to be released as a feature film in March of 2018, for which Ernest also collaborated on the screenplay.
The bulk of the book is set in the year 2044 and takes place in a virtual world called The OASIS. The OASIS is like the largest Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) ever made. Think games like World of Warcraft, Destiny or Skyrim only much bigger. You can do everything in The OASIS. From going to school, working or doing the quests to get your avatar to higher levels.
The OASIS was created by James Donovan Halliday and Ogden Morrow under the company name Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS). The OASIS stands for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation and takes what we know as VR (Virtual Reality) and expands it to the detail we only can dream about.
The OASIS is split into 27 sectors each 10 light hours across and arranged like a virtual Rubik’s Cube. Each sector has several zones that can be any shape or size. Each zone has different sets of rules too. Some don’t allow magic, some don’t allow technology, some don’t allow either. Then there are zones that are banned from Player vs Player (PvP) fighting.
After drifting apart, Ogden left GSS to begin his own company with his wife Karen. James began to put into motion a plan for what would happen with GSS after he passed away. James had no heirs, so he devised a game within The OASIS to determine who would inherit GSS, The OASIS and by extension hundreds of billions of dollars.
Upon James’ death, a video was sent out to lay out the rules of the game. Anyone with an OASIS account could participate and the prize was hidden very well. There would be three keys, to unlock three gates and the prize would be at the end. Due to the fact that Halliday was an avid old school gamer, he gave the clue in riddle format.
Three hidden keys open three secret gates
Wherein the errant will be tested for worthy traits
And those with the skill to survive these straits
Will reach The End where the prize awaits
There would be a copper key and corresponding gate, jade key and corresponding gate and finally a crystal key and corresponding gate. Halliday had his own avatar in The OASIS called Anorak, named after his first Dungeons & Dragons character. He released Anorak’s Almanac with this video as well that gave the clue to the first key.
Halliday was obsessed with the ’80’s and so this contest required it’s contestants to familiarize themselves with the entire decade of pop culture. Everything from Halliday’s favourite movies, music and games… video games, table top games and pen & paper RPG’s.
Our lead character in the book is Wade Watts, but in The OASIS, he is known as Parzival. He is 18 years old, and this whole book is his account of the story. They contest Halliday runs is an Easter Egg hunt, referring to the hidden parts of games that designers put in there for fun. Those who chose to participate were initially called egg hunters, but then used the term ‘gunters’ for short.
Parzival is a solo gunter, but there are gunter clans that have grouped up to try to do the hunt together. Then there is the ‘bad guy’, one of the other large companies, Innovative Online Industries (IOI). The company pays people to be their hunters to find the ‘egg’, a whole dedicated division. If one of them finds they egg, they relinquish controlling interests of GSS to IOI, but would get a hefty finders fee.
The first clue is dubbed the limerick and goes as follows:
The Copper Key awaits explorers
In a tomb filled with horrors
But you have much to learn
If you hope to earn
A place among the high scorer
This limerick took a long while to figure out, five years in fact. When you truly think about it, living 50 years removed from the 1980’s, it would take a while to delve into Halliday’s favourite decade. The first clue led Parzival to the ‘Tomb of Horrors’ module of Dungeons & Dragons. Locating the replicated Tomb on his school planet he was able to achieve the first key.
Ready Player One Players
Besides Parzival, there are other key characters to note in this book. Parzival’s best friend is Aech, a wise cracking fellow gunter who specializes in first person shooter games and winning PvP contests. Art3mis is a female gunter who catches Parzival’s fancy even before they meet in The OASIS and well before meeting in the real world.
Then there are the Japanese ‘brothers’ of Daito and Shoto. They work together well, and even collaborate on a mission with Parzival that nets them a specific artifact that plays a role in the finale. The final main character to point out is Nolan Sorrento. He is the head of operations at IOI and is responsible for some truly underhanded and evil acts. Not just in The OASIS either, he takes action in the real world that ends the lives of several people.
The Plot Continued
To conclude details on the plot of the story is difficult. I just want to rehash the whole thing, but I won’t. Basically put, there is a lead change on the Scoreboard that monitors the progress of those participating in the contest. Parzival kicks things off, Art3mis takes the lead after getting to the second key first and Sorrento finds the third key first and takes the lead there.
The problem is, Sorrento can’t seem to figure out the third and final gate. It takes a team up of our favourite gunters to figure out exactly what to do. Each gate has its own unique puzzle to solve. The first one was a reenactment of the movie War Games, they referred to this as a Flicksync and were awarded points based on how well they did.
The second gate required the player to first find a Voight-Kampff machine located in any recreation of the Tyrell Building from Blade Runner. Once inside they had to beat the high score of a game called Black Tiger.
The final gate was a combination of the first two gates. Anyone reaching this far would first have to play through the video game Tempest and achieve a score over 728,329. Then they had to once again play out a movie, this time Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
I really enjoyed this book and all of the 1980’s pop-culture references. It was a real stroll down memory lane that I just loved so much. The characters are fun and entertaining, even if some of them are a tad unrealistic. However, the book is set in a dystopian future and this is how Ernest Cline views that future.
As I mentioned off the top, I listened to the Audiobook version which is read by Wil Wheaton. I think he was the absolute perfect person to read this book. Being a pop-culture icon himself, and growing up in the 1980’s, it felt so right for him to do it.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who just wants enjoy themselves. Even if you choose not to read it, I would advise giving the Audiobook a listen. I give the book a 9.5 out of 10, and I will listen to it several times over I am sure. The movie that is due out in mere months may disappoint me, but I am still looking forward to seeing it. So as a closing note, I will leave the trailer below.
Have you read or listened to Ready Player One? What did you think of it? Are you excited or nervous for the film? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.