It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?
This book is SO MUCH FUN! I am a child of the 80's, and this story is jam packed full of pop culture references from that time period it's just overwhelming, and wonderful! I listened to the audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, the first time I had heard him read, and it was fantastic! In fact I immediately had to go see what else he'd narrated and found one which I'm listening to right now, also huge fun, but let's get back to Ready Player One and save that one for a future review!
As told in the blurb above, the story takes place during a contest to solve puzzles within the game in order to win Halliday's fortune. What I didn't know until after I'd finished it, is that Cline had actually hidden a real life contest within the book, and the prize would be a DeLorean, one of the ultimate 80's pop culture icons, made popular by the Back to the Future movies staring Michael J. Fox. Alas, the prize has already been awarded, not that I would have been able to win anyway as it required setting a new world record on vintage video games that I've heard of, but not ever played, in spite of being an 80's teen. I still think it's really cool that he offered the prize, as if the story itself wasn't enough fun!
The characters were great, I really sympathized with Wade and his plight, and his friends, and what a serious predicament they find themselves in. While much of the story takes place in the game itself, there is still plenty of action and solid world building outside of that. There are also twists and surprises, and a very satisfying dose of sticking-it-to-the-man! Everyone loves sticking-it-to-the-man, right?
This is a great story, and Wil Wheaton's narrative really brought it alive for me. I highly recommend this Sci-Fi romp through 80's pop culture, and you don't have to be a current computer game enthusiast to follow along, the basic structure of the OASIS is well explained.
There is a great rundown of all the references used on Wikipedia - Ready Player One. Also check out Ernest Cline's Website for more information, in a fun old Atari game format!