Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One" (Cadillac)

It's easy to capture the core of this story with a few pop culture examples.  Imagine Harry Potter blent with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with a good measure of The Matrix, and you have a pretty accurate picture of Ready Player One.  All of this is served up at a frenetic pace with a backdrop of 1980's cultural references that amuse for their nostalgia value and clever treatment. 

Yes Voltron, Rush, Dungeons & Dragons, Joust and scores of other 'proper' arcade games are just a little corner of the world of man-boy nostalgia Cline serves up.  The references are wrapped right into the story, as (e.g.) the protagonist has to re-enact films like Wargames in a 'Guitar Hero' like interface that has him racking up score by getting the lines right, with bonus for correct intonation.  Genius, and I can't believe this product is far from our current generation gaming consoles.

Here's the plot in a nutshell.  Our hero is a basic poor orphan type, finding his escape and adventure in an online world called The Oasis.   The creator of The Oasis is a Willy Wonka meets Steve Jobs type, who announced a great contest upon his death.  The person who finds the 'Easter Eggs' in his massive multiverse online oasis will inherit all of his corporate assets and control of this online world.  The Easter Eggs (gamer slang for hidden bonuses and other curiosities within video games) are all based on the deceased's love of the 80's.  Clues are given, but mastery of the films, games, music and pop cultural history of the 80's is a must.  Each Easter Egg provides the key to a gate.  At each stage a new clue or challenge based on 80's lore is tackled.  There's much more as the story develops, but I refuse to drop any spoilers here.  Suffice to say, it's an incredibly fun read, and an original take on 'vast virtual worlds' in more than a few ways.

Author of the Fanboys screenplay, his Ready Player One was apparently optioned for a film one day after the book rights were secured in a bidding war.  Well done Cline!  I'm reluctant to see this put to the screen if only because I know securing the rights to all the diverse copyrighted characters and content will radically pull back how much and how artfully they'll be used.  There are several references that just fit well with the character and hero's journey, and seeing them swapped out for something else (from the parent company's own library) just seems unfortunate.  Still, they already have my $12.  Shut up and take my money.

The author, with his personal Delorean, mocked up 80's geek style. 
He's the real deal.

About the Delorean above...

At the release of his paperback edition, he announced that the novel itself contains an Easter Egg, a link to an online site that will present yet another challenge to unlock based on three different video games.  The winner of this challenge will receive a custom Delorean as pictured here.  Sweet.  Clever.  Both hardcover and paperback English editions include the Easter Egg, so happy hunting.  That's two good reasons to check this book out.  Solid Cadillac.  (Or should I say Delorean?)

Many thanks go to Tyler Ward for picking this out as a family gift for me, on the occasion of my 39th birthday.

BTW - here's the link to his Easter Egg Hunt announcement...


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