Ready Player One- an OASIS in the Sci-Fi Genre (Review)


Kirsten Bisconer

The novel, Ready Player One, focuses on a dystopian universe where engaging in virtual reality is the only hope for survival.

Alex Landis, Student Life Editor

If you’re looking for a book that serves 80s nostalgia with a steaming side of nerdiness, look no further. “Ready Player One,” released in 2011 by Ernest Cline, is a science fiction novel that focuses heavily on the popular culture of yesterday and the advanced tech of tomorrow. An interesting mix for sure, with only a few stereotypical sci-fi elements and tons of current internet trends and personality, and 80’s trivia and references.  Mixing 80’s pop culture and high-tech virtual reality is bold, and works out spectacularly in this novel.

The protagonist is a scrappy underdog named Wade Watts, who lives in one of the dystopian “stacks” – Mobile homes stacked 20 high and held up by rickety metal scaffolding, with high crime rates and a knack for collapsing. Wade lives less with his aunt at the top, and more in his hideout, a small van powered by a bicycle. This treacherous dystopia is the perfect setting for a book with these themes of escapism through video games. It’s like an extreme version of our real world, or what it will be in a few decades. 

The video game in question is the OASIS. It’s a massively popular online multiplayer game where people can escape the dreary reality that they actually live in. Players can be someone entirely different and live out whatever life they can’t in the depressing real world. In The OASIS, anything is possible. People live, work, and do everything they can’t in real life with an OASIS visor and haptic gloves on. It’s a nerd’s dream come true. The OASIS is a fantastic second setting as it’s such a better world and represents what escapism is all about: tuning out the world that’s far worse and spending more and more time in the better world where you can do everything you can’t in real life.

The creator of The OASIS, and the company that owns it, Gregarious Simulation Systems, is James Donovan Halliday. An eccentric 80’s nerd who says what we’re all thinking: that the real world sucks, and video games are so much better. He dies, on page one, single and with no heirs. His entire business, fortune, and control of The OASIS is left to whoever finds his Easter Egg (a hidden secret in a video game) by collecting three keys to unlock three gates. James Halliday has no real lines in the book, but he’s constantly referenced by the characters and this makes him all the more fun to slowly learn about. He’s also the nerd we all are, or hope to be. 

The hunt for Halliday’s egg and fortune spawns a massive online community of people called gunters (portmanteau of egG hUNTERS) all dedicated to finding the Halliday’s Egg before the stereotypical (but still well done) evil corporation. if Innovative Online Industries (IOI) finds the egg, they’ll monetize everything people liked about The OASIS, making it just as dreary and corporate as the outside world. The OASIS as of now only costs a quarter to play, just like the old coin-operated games of the 80’s. IOI has a legion of professional game-players, and a division of Halliday experts who analyzed every piece of media he was interested in to try and figure out where the keys are hidden. These gunter clans and IOI turn the world of the OASIS into a constant warzone on a massive scale, creating more tension for our main characters to fight through, which is loads of fun (even if they’re solely on the side of the gunters) it’s still a warzone and IOI is the poster child of evil corporations, making them interesting to read and learn about their complex inner workings.

There are more characters that are still beloved like the main character, starting with Aech (pronounced like the letter H), who is level 30, and rich due to being a top competitor in several televised player versus player (PvP) OASIS tournaments. He’s Wade’s best friend and they spend every moment they can hanging out. The other protagonists are Art3mis, the famous gunter blogger and Wade’s main love interest and the second most famous gunter of the main five. Then there’s Shoto and Daito, two Japanese brothers who work as a pair and are never seen apart. They are known as the “High Five”, due to being the top five on the scoreboard that tracks progress in the quest for the Easter Egg. Out of the high five, Parzival and Shoto & Daito are my favorites, because Parzival is the most interesting because he’s the one we see the most of out of the game, and Shoto & Daito because they are always working as a pair and I’m a sucker for characters that work as a coordinated team like that.

The book has good pacing, in that some parts are really fast and some parts are really slow. With adrenaline-fueled battles against the Sixers (IOI lackeys) and some slowly progressing, riddles or other distractions, the combination of differing plot speeds create a great story rollercoaster. The novel always keeps the reader engaged and invested, with an addictive writing style that glues the book to their hands.

The setting of the game is amazing. The real-world dystopia is fantastically written, with everything being dismal and miserable. The OASIS is so intricate, being a vast virtual world made up of 27 sectors that are made to look like a Rubik’s cube with hundreds of planets that players can visit for a small teleportation fee, with a variety of licensed and original planets full of items to collect and quests to complete in the more dangerous zones, and calmer zones for the OASIS users who just want to socialize and shop and play more normal sports like zero-gravity tennis. Every time new details about the OASIS are revealed (constantly) I want to play it more and more and you can see that if this game was real people would also spend the most of their lives inside it, myself included.

This book is fantastic if you’re a nerd about the past or a nerd about the future. The escapism is so immersive that by the end of it, I, like all the characters in the book forgot about how bad things are outside of the OASIS. Books, like Ready Player One that allow a reader to transport to a world without worries are truly paradise. 

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