“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

“Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable.” —Anorak’s Almanac, Chapter 91, Verses 1–2

In our age of technology, communication and relationships are being redefined by MMORPGs, social networking sites, and online dating. After spending dozens of hours plugged into a computer, it can be difficult to distinguish these virtual realms from reality. But in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, this blurring of “real” and “kind of real” takes on a whole new level, asking what is worth living, loving, and dying for, and what it means to embrace a virtual life as your real life.

Ready Player One centers on Wade Watts, an 18-year-old “gunter” who lives with his aunt in a “stack” of mobile homes. He spends most of his time online in a virtual game called the OASIS, where people can participate in almost anything: school, church, even recreations of iconic tv shows. The deceased creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, left behind his enormous fortune in the form of a hidden Easter egg. Wade, along with other gunters, scours the online world for this prize, needing to attain three keys and open three gates before his avatar, Parzival, will be deemed worthy enough to win it.

It has been years since the competition started, and no one has even come close to solving the first clue. But Wade’s extensive knowledge of Halliday proves invaluable when he figures out its meaning; a race ensues between him and his fellow gunters, including his best friend Aech, and his romantic interest Art3mis. But the situation nosedives when a vicious group known as the Sixers catches wind of Wade’s accomplishment; if they find the egg, the OASIS will be destroyed. And Wade cannot allow that to happen.

Ready Player One is full of esoteric references that might go over your head, but they certainly won’t distract from the story. If you’re a fan of ’80s culture, you’ll get a gracious helping of tv show, video game, and music throwbacks. And even if you don’t like the ’80s, Wade and friends are sure to keep you entertained. I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5, and I encourage you to add it your shelves right away. It’s time to enter a world of excitement, danger, and bravery: Are you ready, Player One?