Before I began Ready Player One, I heard it was nothing more than an obscene data dump of 80s information. But I’d been recommended the novel and my husband (who normally reads at a glacial pace) had just finished the book in two days, so I decided to read it anyway.

readyplayeroneIt is actually an obscene data dump of eighties information, but contained in an extremely attractive package.

The story starts on Earth after almost all the fossil fuels have run out. People are doing it tough. Luckily, some smart tech entrepreneurs have created an online reality for everyone to escape to so they can forget about their awful lives.

Our protagonist is not inspiring. He’s an out and out geek school boy carrying way too many kilos. His name is Wade. He lives with his aunt who only lets him stay so she can collect the money for looking after him, which she doesn’t bother doing. He gets by fixing computers and selling them.

The only joy in his life is a special quest that began when one of the creators of the virtual world died. The creator’s will revealed that ownership of his share of the virtual world would pass onto whoever could find an Easter egg coded into the world. There were three hidden gates to find and pass through before a seeker could find the egg itself.

Since the founder was an 80s tragic, the competition spawned massive interest in the decade — films, games, songs. Anything the founder might have liked. The egg hunters who have immersed themselves in the founder’s world have been nicknamed gunters. And Wade, whose online name is Parzival, is a pretty top notch gunter. He’s obsessed with the 80s. But years have passed and no one has found a single gate.

I had three older siblings who taught me a love of Star Wars and eighties bands like Midnight Oil, but I myself was born in the eighties and therefore didn’t absorb all of the culture first hand. There were references to songs, games and movies in the book I had never heard of. Despite that, I was pulled along by the story, which moves at a fast pace, with important plot lines happening in both the real and virtual worlds. Cline also makes the reader care so much about poor Wade that we really want him to win. Part of his charm is his extreme geekdom, which he is absurdly proud of. His enthusiasm about his 80s trivia is so infectious that it’s hard not get pulled along in his interest.

In many ways, having the virtual world with anonymous avatars makes the story of Parzival and Wade a bit of a Superman/Clark Kent tale. What’s not to love about Superman? And Clark gets the girl in the end, doesn’t he?  I’ll let you see whether Wade does.

I finished the novel in two days. I recommended it to a colleague at work who loved it and passed it onto his son. It is now his son’s favourite book. Given his son is not much older than ten and would think of the 80s as “so last century” I’m taking this as proof the book is not just a nostalgia kick, but a well written story. I’m giving it a 4/5.

My husband and I were too stupid to notice that there was apparently also an easter egg hidden in the book. If you read it, maybe you can find it.

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