Novels focused around gaming are somewhat of an oddity since they are such a distinct subtype of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Video games are essentially Fantasy and Science Fiction in themselves, and books that fall in these two genres are generally written to convince readers that the universe created within the novel is believable enough to engross legions of fans to feel as if these worlds actually exist. Immersion into these genres is key to their success and popularity, which is why there are so many knock offs of classics, given that coming up with a new and unique spin on the standard tropes is incredibly challenging. Also, there is a common belief that people that seriously play video games do not necessarily read, and while not true, obviously those who choose to spend their free time with a controller in their hands do not have as much time for reading novels. What happened when a writer who grew up adoring video games decided to write a novel set inside of a dystopian world, but then spends a large portion of the narrative beneath that dystopian world, inside of a video game?
In 2011, the relatively obscure screenwriter of Fanboys, Ernest Cline, released Ready Player One, a novel of just that nature. USA Today stated that Cline became "the hottest geek on the planet right now." To mark the upcoming release of his highly anticipated sophomore novel, Armada, on July 14th, let's revisit Cline's brilliant debut.
Ready Player One made nonreaders pick up a book. I myself passed it along to several friends that normally did not read, and they subsequently devoured each of its almost four-hundred pages in the amount of time that a voracious reader would. While it could almost fall into the classification of novelists writing books about novelists given that if an aspiring writer wants to write a novel, do it instead of reading fiction about another writer. Similarly, if someone wants to experience a good video game story, play a video game, because that would be a better experience. Just as writers of the previous types of novels have proved readers wrong on occasions, Cline creates a video game story so good, that it is most aptly enjoyed through prose.
Without giving away too much, as those who have not read it, should pick it up as soon as possible, Ready Player One is set in the year 2044, our protagonist, Wade Watts, spends most of his time inside of the advanced virtual reality simulator, OASIS, and along with almost every other person who partakes in the OASIS experience, he is searching for the Easter Egg hidden within the vast number of worlds that would give him ownership of the technology and the company. This task was given by the founder of the company, as stated in his last will and testament. Watts is not not particularly well off as we find out early in the novel, and OASIS works just like the real world, in that the people with the resources and high societal status, are at an advantage. This works on a couple of levels, since the virtual world is designed to mirror the real world, and just as video games are used as escapism from real life, Cline ramps the stakes up by creating a real world that is so ravaged, that escaping into the OASIS to search for hope is the only answer to the world's problems for many.
Ready Player One is littered with pop culture references from the mid to late twentieth century, ranging from books to movies to iconic technology figures, and of course video games, making it more enjoyable for those with a large knowledge of a so called "geek culture." Cline even rewarded readers who took the time to really learn the novel, by announcing almost a year after the novel's release that it contained an elaborate Easter Egg hunt of its own for brave and determined readers to partake in, just as Wade Watts does throughout the novel. The prize? A DeLorean, of course. This led to a fleet of readers attempting to crack the code that started inside the pages of the novel. Eventually, one man, Craig Queen reached the final stage of the hunt, in which he had to break a world record on one of several classic arcade games. He set the world record for Joust almost a year after the book's release, and two months after Cline revealed that there was an Easter Egg. Just as James Halliday revealed the existence of an Easter Egg within the world that many already enjoyed, Cline makes a nod to the OASIS creator by following suit.
Ready Player One is such a unique and fulfilling experience, filled with twists and turns that beg readers to read "just one more chapter," before turning the lights off at night. Steven Spielberg is signed on to direct the movie adaptation, and the film rights to Armada have already been sold prior to its publication date. Cline sold those rights two and a half years ago for reportedly a seven-figure sum. All of this for a video game plot inside a novel, a rare oddity indeed. Cline is a treasure of a writer that arguably redefined a subset of a genre with just one novel. For those who have experienced Ready Player One, there is no better time to go back to the OASIS, and for the ones who have not yet entered Cline's inventive gaming world, Armada does not come out until July 14th, leaving plenty of time to press start on Ready Player One.
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