Ernest Cline must’ve spent his childhood prostrate in front of an Atari game console or a cathode ray tube. He definitely has an insider knowledge of 80’s geek culture. In his 2011 best-seller Ready Player One, he lobs references to ‘Phantasm’ and ‘Ladyhawke’ like a grenadier. He doesn’t mention them inappropriately like some other golden-age-thinking poseurs. His writing style is deliberately wiseacre and his alliterative main character Wade Watts speaks in a contemporary gamer syntax that doesn’t feel artificial.
The arc of the book is a brazen copycat of Willy Wonka in which an orphaned, pure-hearted kid is challenged to run through a gamut in order to obtain an unattainable prize. Cline shirks that lockstep narrative structure for truly immersive storytelling whenever Wade enters the OASIS, an astronomically expansive virtual reality realm.
Customizing avatars and gaining abilities are the main pleasures of delving into the interactive dimension. When Wade solves an another riddle, the reader is both impressed by his intuition and perplexed at the amount of time invested in Halliday’s obsessions.
Recently Steven Spielberg was tapped to direct an adaptation of the book in the near future. I hate to quibble but a younger director like Edgar Wright and Rian Johnson might be a more germane choice. I would absolutely recommend this as mandatory reading for anyone whose fondest teenage memories were gathering around the television/system module with their closest friends and enjoying a slice of escapism.
Rating: 3.5 out 5