Last week I introduced the idea of starting a book club. I was kind of disgusted with myself because I hadn’t read a real book in probably six months. Normally, I’m a big reader, but with work, video games and comics as a distraction, I wasn’t getting any reading done. Plus, I was having a hard time getting into what I was trying to read. That’s why I picked five books that appealed to me and would possibly tie in to video games and other things I like, such as science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The first book I ready was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I’m a little late getting this review written, but I was kind of in a weird place last week when I finished reading it. This week, I’m trying to get my blog (and life) back on track.
Ready Player One immediately sucks you in and it’s hard to stop reading. This book is like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Sword Art Online meets The Sims. Ready Player One takes place in 2044 where the country is completely impoverished after war and violence. The only thing people have left to live for is a virtual reality console called the OASIS to escape their depressing lives. Imagine World of Warcraft and The Sims 3 had a baby and you played it on an Oculus Rift. It’s a virtual world where you can live your entire life – play games, go to school, create your own planet, and have a job.
The story begins when the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, passes away. He wants to leave his fortune, as well as control over OASIS, to someone who can beat his Wonka-esque contest. The contest draws heavily on Easter Eggs. You know, hidden items or images in games that have been famous ever since the Atari. The object of this contest use clues that Halliday left behind to find three keys to open three different gates. Whoever beats the final gate first, wins.
Wade Watts, AKA Parzival, is our main character who dedicates his whole life to learning everything he can about James Halliday so he can find the clues to win the game. He, along with the rest of the world, becomes obsessed with 80’s pop culture. Because of that, the whole book makes references to Atari games, retro arcades, and old tv shows and movies like Family Ties and pretty much anything with Matthew Broderick in it. If your first game console was a Commodore 64 or an Atari 2600, then this book is definitely for you. Several times I got misty eyed thinking about playing Street Fighter 2 at Pizza Hut and tabletop Pac Man at Mr. Gatti’s when I was a kid.
Parzival dukes it out with the president of a major internet service provider, who wants to use his winnings to further monetize OASIS. However, Parzival often beats him because he doesn’t have the love or knowledge of retro gaming culture to stay ahead for long. This book really drives home the message that the fans will always win and major corporations (ISPs, major video game publishers, software companies) ultimately have to give us what we want if they want to make any profit.
I also like how the book dealt with the issue of whether people you know from the internet can be considered your real friends. Parzival goes to school online and doesn’t know anything about his classmates. He also hides throughout the day when he’s using OASIS and has very little real life human contact. He does have a best friend he met through OASIS named Aech (pronounced like the letter H) whom he has never met in real life and doesn’t even know what he truly looks like. I think this book takes the stance that online relationships can be just as meaningful, if not more than “real life” relationships. Sometimes, the people you are friends with online can become like a family to you.
I thought this was a great book to begin my book club with. I read it within a few days, which is good for me since I haven’t gotten into a book for six months. The next book on the list is The Shining by Stephen King. I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, but I always wanted to read the book as well. From what I’ve heard, The Shining is one of the few movies that are just as good as the book. Because of work and some other things, I’m going to have to push my reading schedule back a few weeks. I’m supposed to have The Shining read by Wednesday and it’s Monday now. I don’t think I’ll be able to read it by then. Anyway, I’m really glad I started this book club so I can achieve my goal of reading more.