Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011, Crown)

Recommended for ages 14+

A hidden Easter egg. An online video game. A battle between good and evil ensues – but in an infinite virtual world, the egg could be anywhere.
In 2044, the environmental crisis facing America remained unresolved. Unemployment has run rampant through the United States. Many Americans live in trailer park “stacks” – trailers stacked in towers; many citizens work and attend school virtually in a massively multiplayer online role playing environment called the OASIS.
Created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow – a duo reminiscent of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – the OASIS is heavily influenced by the 1970s and ’80s, reflecting Halliday’s and Morrow’s pop culture obsessions. When Halliday dies, a message goes out to all OASIS subscribers where he reveals that he has left a final game with an Easter egg – a hidden message – hidden in the OASIS; whoever finds it will inherit his fortune, including a controlling share in his company, Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS). Egg hunters, or “gunters”, spring up all over the world to take on the quest, but five years after this death, no one has claimed the prize. Enter Wade Watts, screen name Parzival, a high school teenager obsessed with Halliday, the ’80s, and the quest. He manages to find the first gateway, which kicks the race into high gear. The only problem is, others are on his tail, including the villainous Innovative Online Industries (IOI), who want to win the prize in order to charge users for access to the OASIS. Parzival will need help from his friends, Aech (pronounced “haych”), Art3mis, and brothers Daito and Shoto, if he is to succeed – but there can only be on winner.
Loaded with ’80s pop culture references, this is a great adult crossover book for teens. The MMORPG environment will resonate with teen audiences, and the sprinkled ’80s references will bridge the gap between adult readers and teens, particularly in terms of video games, which many may have heard their parents talk about. The writing is fast-paced and fun, with even the darker elements of the book movign along quickly and propelling the plot forward. The character development is only deep enough to continue moving the plot forward, with Wade and Halliday receiving the most character development. The other characters are, for most of the novel, virtual and unknown, only revealed toward the end. Readers will keep turning pages and possibly even check out some of the books, television shows, and video games that the author references.
Ready Player One received an American Library Association (ALA) Alex Award (2012).
Author Ernest Cline created the Star Wars fan movie, Fanboys. His author website offers links to his blog, information about his books, his movies, and his spoken words books. The Ready Player Onewebsite features a RP1 video games, links to social media, and news.

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