Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Did you grow up in the 80’s? Do you like video games and geek culture? Then you might only be a little bit irritated by this book.

In the future, a global total immersion video game dominates the worlds economy, with most of humanity spending every available waking hour inside of it. The creator of said video game has hidden an ‘Easter Egg’ inside the game, which would grant the one who finds it complete control of the game and his company, according to his will.

The creator of this video game world, though, was obsessed with 80’s movies and old video games, and the clues to finding ‘the egg’ are all somehow related to these obsessions. This has the consequence of causing an entire generation of egg hunters, or ‘gunters’ as they are referred to in the novel, to become obsessed with the minutia of movies and games made 50 years before they were even born. (This novel is set in the future.)

It’s fun and nostalgic at first, then becomes really kind of sad and pathetic about halfway into the book, and I almost stopped reading. These characters have no interests of their own, they only like something because their game designer god-hero liked it. In one scene, a character orders a drink at the bar, and another says ‘ah, that’s Connor MacLeod’s favorite drink, good choice.’ So, it’s a good choice not because it tastes good, not because you enjoy it, but because some fictional character enjoys it. And the whole book is like this.

I wonder if the author meant it as a statement on the celebrity obsessed culture that we live in. I wonder if these characters were meant to be pathetic shells of humans whose only interests and knowledge about life revolve around movies and shows and games half a century gone. I wonder if the recitation of movie quotes as if they were some kind of sacred scripture was meant to highlight how ridiculous some of our own modern religions are, or if it was meant to mirror the deity-like status we give to actors and musicians.

Or is Ernest Cline just a big, smelly nerd who wanted an excuse to go on for chapters long rambles about the trivial details of Zork and Joust and Back to the Future and Wargames, and have big video game battles between his favorite robots and monsters?

The world may never know.

I enjoyed the book for the most part, in retrospect. It was an exciting and interesting read, and I did enjoy some of the nostalgia. I’d recommend it to people who grew up in the 80’s.

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