Ernest Cline sets some sort of land speed record in establishing the premise of his debut novel, Ready Player One. In less than ten pages, the reader will learn that:
1. It’s 2044, and the planet has been more or less done in by its own excesses, humanity reduced to poverty, pestilence, and war.
2. The sole bright spot in this world is OASIS, a fully interactive multiverse, where people work, go to school, meet with friends, go on vacation, and generally spend as much time as possible, because, well... see #1.
3. OASIS was created by James Halliday, an eccentric genius, tech innovator, and multibillionaire obsessed with 1980s pop culture, the decade during which he was a teen.
4. Upon Halliday’s death, he left behind a will promising his entire fortune to the person who finds the “Easter egg” he’s hidden somewhere in OASIS - a quest involving three keys, three gates, and a dazzling prize at the end.
5. Egg hunters, known as “gunters” set off on a furious quest for the treasure, but after four years, nobody has turned up so much as a single clue.
6. Until our protagonist, an 18-year-old trailer park kid, finds the first key like something straight out of The Last Starfighter.
And with that, we’re off on a quest that’s peppered with 80s references and in-jokes ranging from the Atari 2600 to the DeLorean from Back to the Future, Members Only jackets, the Commodore 64, and the eternal debate over whether Ladyhawke was a great film with a terrible score or a terrible film with a terrible score.
Depending how fondly you remember the 1980s, this is either the book you’ve been waiting for your entire life, or an acid-washed nightmare - but don’t be surprised if the irrepressible geekery of Ready Player One wins you over. Ernest Cline is the Ferris Bueller of writers. He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this, but you know what? He’s got the charm and panache to pull it off. And it is so choice.