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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

1/10/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Ready Player One in the USA - or Buy Ready Player One in the UK

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pub: Crown Publishers. 372 page hardback. Price: $24.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6.

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In 2044, when multi-billionaire loner and on-line game reality stage creator of the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersion Simulation aka OASIS James Halliday dies, the dictates of his will is that whoever can locate the three keys within the stimulation will get his fortune. He leaves a lot of clues that have a more contemporary connection, back to the 80s though which might confuse younger readers, but even the most ardent player or more commonly, gunters, fail to find even the first key.

Well, until Wade Watts, the first person narrative from which we follow the events of Ernest Cline’s story, ‘Ready Player One’. He’s late teen school-age, his parents are dead and he lives with a drunk-addled aunt and her boyfriend. He’s also a computer geek and quite at home using avatars in holo-reality, but then again, so are most people in this book. The world is a mess and many people spend their time on-line for everything from school to gaming. It’s a shame the perspective doesn’t really show what people do when they’re off-line but that’s probably a minor point in the story. After all, virtual currency exists today, so I’m sure such a thing would be exaggerated in this future.

I did think once I started reading this book whether or not I would need a larger grounding in computer games, let alone role-playing games to understand this book. Fortunately, most references needed are within the contents, although I wonder if the reader has to follow Wade or work out the solutions along the way ourselves. Having seen the solutions, I doubt if any reader would have gotten them before reading on with the story. Correct me if I’m wrong. I suspect a lot of you will either have a nostalgia kick for early computer hard and software and the various references within. Saying that, if you were born in the past twenty years, you’ll have to look them up although as I say, knowing all the details intimately isn’t a requirement for the story.

Wade gets to know his fellow competitors and even has a requited love for Art3mis but the real enemy of the peace is the organisation Innovative Online Industries, aka IOI, and its ruthless chief of operations, Nolan Sorrento, who sees nothing out of the ordinary in eliminating the opposition, in the literal sense, so they become heir to OASIS and the Halliday fortune. It’s a shame we don’t see more of their despicable ways than just their actions as this ruthless organisation but that’s a consequence of first person narrative.

There are enough plot twists to keep you thinking and is a good page-turner and I’d advise you to have time to read the last sixty pages in one sitting. Cline creates some realistic characters and it wasn’t difficult to figure out the gender of some of them. Computerised avatars exist today and I doubt if anyone will interpret them as resembling themselves when the choice is to make themselves look like what they would rather wish they were like. Whether people will become a geeky as these characters or not, I don’t know. I see nothing out of the ordinary in seeing old films periodically but not sure if I would go word perfect on the dialogue.

In many respects, what happens in this book could one day be reality or even digital reality (sic) which is more frightening. One can only hope that corporations never get autonomy on the Net or any digital reality. An interesting book that will keep you riveted to your nearest reality seat.

GF Willmetts

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This book has 6 votes in the sci-fi charts

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