Actually I started listening to it, and realized that there was no way I could finish it before the audio book was due back at the library. So I ripped the part I hadn’t yet listened to (to make sure I wouldn’t just keep it forever) and put it on my mp3 player to finish. And when I was finished the exciting book that I’d checked out to listen to next didn’t seem nearly so exciting, so I started listening one-third of the way through the book again. Maybe I’ll get over it enough to start listening to something else. Maybe I’ll have to buy the audio book for myself so I can listen to the whole thing legally, over and over again.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Read by Wil Wheaton. It’s a dark, dystopian future. The Recession never ended, and the ongoing energy crisis has ended the era of easy travel. Most people are unemployed, living in large stacks of trailers just outside the city. Life in the real world is so grim that the vast majority of people spend all their time logged into the Oasis, an immersive on-line alternate reality. Getting on to the Oasis and its main planet are free; it sustains itself and a large portion of the overall economy by charging for on-line goods and travel to its millions of other planets. The Oasis was imagined and designed by a hard-core socially impaired geek by the name of James Halliday. When he dies without heirs, he sends out to all the millions of Oasis users an invitation to participate in a treasure hunt for three keys leading to the location of an Easter egg hidden in the game. Our hero is one Wade Watts, an orphan living in the trailer stacks who is attending his senior year of high school in the Oasis. He’s named his avatar Parzival after the Arthurian grail-seeker and is determined to find the egg himself. In addition to all the time he spends in the Oasis, he’s devoted himself to mastering the 1980s arcade, computer and role-playing games, movies and movies that were formative during Halliday’s teen years. Geek children of the 1980s, this book is for you. There are multiple clues and puzzles which you might be able to figure out before Wade if you are familiar with the right movie or game, and even if you don’t, the trivia lessons are fun.
Even if the 80s weren’t your era, the plot of the book keeps on moving. Wade may be just one of millions of gunters (as the egg hunters come to be known), but we know from the beginning that he’s the first one to find the first key. His rivals include his best friend H and the zaftig and beautiful (at least on-line)if reclusive Art3mis, but the real enemy is the giant corporation IOI. They have an army of corporate warriors bent on finding the egg to give ownership of the Oasis to IOI, so that they can then start charging monthly fees and adding more advertising to the Oasis. Can our poor, self-educated hero find the egg or help his friends get there before the evil corporation takes over the current refuge of the poor? Wil Wheaton, geek extraordinaire, gives a pitch-perfect narration here. Though this features a teen narrator, it is aimed at adults. There’s a little sexual reference (no actual sex) and some violence, mostly in the game. The language is foul throughout. This is one of my very favorite books this year, and I urge my fellow geeks to seek it out right now.