Today’s society is one filled with pop culture: movies, literature, video games, television shows, comic books, etc. No matter which of these one likes, one is bound to hear a reference to something pop culture on a daily basis. There are the fans of pop culture… and then there are the überfans… we shall call them nerds. Though this term may seem like a negative label, it is far from that. To be called a nerd is a name every nerd should wear as a badge of honor: if it is something one loves, one should embrace it and not let anyone tell them what they love is stupid or childish. Pop culture is a way of escape from a rather drab reality and all of the fictional creations out there bring fun and entertainment to the imagination. Writer Ernest Cline covered the true meaning to being an übernerd in his debut novel Ready Player One.
Set in the year 2044, in a future where an energy crisis has arisen and day to day life has become unbearable for everyone, a virtual world was created known as the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). When OASIS’s creator, James Halliday, passes away, he leaves behinds clues to an Easter egg he has hidden in his game: whoever finds the egg wins his entire fortune. In order to find the egg, gamers must be knowledgeable of all of the pop culture Halliday loved and one teenage boy named Wade Watts is as knowledgeable as they come. When Wade is the first to discover the first clue to finding the egg, he learns who he can trust and who he must fear, for those working against him are not only trying to kill him in the OASIS, but also in the real world.
It is difficult, as a fellow nerd, to describe the awesome power of nerd Cline has been bestowed with and the nerdgasm readers (especially the überfans) will receive while reading this book. No matter what readers like, they will find at least one reference to the pop culture they love the most. Not to mention, any fans of the 80s will be overwhelmed with the many references to this beloved decade scattered throughout the book. And not only does it mention the more well-known pop culture such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Pac-Man, Monty Python, etc., but it also references many other types of pop culture that many may not remember or even know about. These references recommend new fun fictional stories to explore, read, watch, play, etc.
Aside from the over-abundant references of nerd, the story itself is very intriguing and a lot of fun. Cline has a fun style of writing, speaking his mind whenever he wants to through his characters. If he and Chuck Wendig wrote a book together, it would be hysterical! Not only is his dialog witty with nearly all of his characters, but his descriptions of the OASIS virtual reality is truly incredible. He gives the readers just enough detail to get a picture in their minds, then lets the readers’ imagination fill in the blanks.
In Ready Player One, the OASIS is a godsend: the world is in chaos with an energy crisis, crazy weather and climate change, as well as many other problems and the OASIS is like a virtual getaway. Adults can work and conduct business in the OASIS, children go to school, and thousands upon thousands of worlds exist where people can play games, complete quests, build their own homes, etc. Basically, anything one can think of, one can do in the OASIS. Of course, this also adds a problem to reality for some people get so wrapped up in the virtual world, they forget which world is real.
This book is fascinating and it really shows a direction our society of today is heading. Our world may not be in as much danger as facing a potential energy crisis, but the idea virtual reality is becoming more of a reality with each passing year. Anything online, whether it is online gaming, social media, blogs, anything, people are communicating with each other more while also, at the same time, communicating with each other less. People can be whoever they want to be online. They can hide whatever they see as a flaw and show everyone who they would like to be. Not to mention, communicating online is easy because one is just typing words. And yet, when people come face to face with other people, it is becoming more and more difficult for them to talk to each other.
Cline really focuses on this point for the last half of his story. The main character Wade understands that in the OASIS, he is a powerful player and well-known by all, but in the real world, he really has no one. “Standing there, under the bleak fluorescents of my tiny one-room apartment, there was no escaping the truth. In real life, I was nothing but an antisocial hermit. A recluse. A pale-skinned pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact. I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting his life on a glorified videogame” (Cline 198). Many, if not all, nerds feel this way at some point in their lives. They escape from the cruel, mean things real people say to them by diving into their virtual worlds or fictional stories or wherever they feel most comfortable. This is a great way to escape, but it is not the answer. Cline’s real message is to, yes, have fun, but to not be afraid of life. Do not hide from the world forever.
Ready Player One is a creative, fun, well-planned story written by the creative mind of a boy trapped in a man’s body who understands what it truly means to live. Cline offers readers an escape from the real world, but also a closer look at it. Through references both women and men will squeal over, he teaches not only nerds, but everyone how to have fun, but to also find one’s own adventures in real life. The worlds in fiction are glamorous, but the world we live upon is not as boring as we may think. The major flaw yet the greatest gift humanity has is our imperfections. Humans are not perfect and often make mistakes, but from these mistakes come lessons: lessons learned and taught to others. Characters and identities are built upon mistakes and, if humanity allows these mistakes to control their lives, how else will they live? There are extra lives in a game, but in reality, there is only one. Live life to the fullest before the final GAME OVER flashes across the screen.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on April 28, 2015.