Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was the second assignment for August/September by the ADN Bookclub. The story revolves around young Wade Watts as he makes his way through a world set around 30 years in the future where the oil crisis eventually happened. More or less at the same time the next iteration of WOW+EveOnline+SecondLife became extremely popular so all of mankind fled into this new and far less grim virtual world, called OASIS. When Wade becomes a teenager the creator of OASIS dies and leaves behind the ultimate quest for the legacy of this simulation.
Most of the book plays out in the OASIS with only short visits to the real world. The whole quest is a big love-fest for the 1980s with every single page being full of references to the pop-culture of this time-period. If you’re into video games, geek-culture and music from this period, you will probably be flooded by nostalgia after the first quarter of the book.
That said, the author perhaps overachieves here as most of the references are far too in-your-face and definitely too frequent not to become tiring after the first hundred pages. The rest of the world (no matter if virtual or real) is more or less left behind in favor of presenting the reader one 1980s-flashback after another. You learn a thing or two about what 2044 feels like but everything is shallow.
The book only has a handful or characters but all of them are quite unique and well done. The interaction between these really feels like the better online-contacts that they are esp. as the bonds and animosities grow. And these characters are what keeps the otherwise rather predictable plot going.
The author also misses the chance to look at topics like “gaming-addiction” and people retreating from the real world in a more critical way. All the characters in the book basically live outside the real world but that’s about it, no side-effect besides perhaps being a little shy. In fact, Wade behaves like the game has trained him for every possible situation.
All in all, it is a good read if you’re into video games or the 1980s in general, but I certainly did miss what the hype was all about here. If you’re looking for something deep, probably better look somewhere else.