Ready Player One
Ernest Cline, 2011
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
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? (From the publisher.)
• Where—Ashland, Ohio, USA
• Currently—lives in Austin, Texas
Ernest Cline is an American novelist, spoken word artist and screenwriter. In his past, he worked as a short-order cook, fish gutter, plasma donor, elitist video store clerk, and tech support drone. His primary occupation, however, has always been geeking out, and he eventually threw aside those other promising career paths to express his love of pop culture fulltime as a spoken word artist and screenwriter. His 2009 film Fanboys, much to his surprise, became a cult phenomenon
From 1997-2001, Cline performed his original work at the Austin Poetry Slam venues. He was the Austin Poetry Slam Champ in 1998 and 2001, and competed on the Austin Poetry Slam Teams at the 1998 Austin National Poetry Slam and the 2001 Seattle National Poetry Slam
His most popular spoken word pieces include: "Dance, Monkeys, Dance", "Nerd Porn Auteur" and "When I Was a Kid." Paulo Ang, a UCSD student, created a popular flash cartoon out of Ernie's track "Dance Monkeys Dance." Cline himself subsequently reworked "Dance Monkeys Dance" into a faux educational filmstrip, which became a popular viral video that has now been translated into 29 different languages.
In 2001, Cline self-published a chapbook collection of his spoken word writing, The Importance of Being Ernest and released an album, The Geek Wants Out, both sold through his website.
In 1996, Cline wrote a sequel (Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League) to W. D. Richter's 1984 film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and made it available on the Internet.
In 1998, Cline's screenplay, Fanboys, generated local interest in Austin, TX, including mention on Harry Knowles' website Ain't It Cool News. In late 2005, the Weinstein Company purchased Ernest Cline's script for Fanboys film, casting Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel and Kristen Bell as the five main characters. Fanboys was released in 2009.
Also in the summer of 2008, Lakeshore Entertainment announced that they would be producing Cline's screenplay, Thundercade. Thundercade follows the story of a video game junkie in his mid-30's who learns that a young gamer has beaten a record he set when he was a teenager. He then travels with his friends to the world's largest gaming championship, Thundercade, to restore his former glory.
In June 2010 Cline sold his first novel Ready Player One in a bidding war. The film rights to the novel were sold the following day to Warner Bros. with Cline attached to write the screenplay. Ten months after the hardcover release and coinciding with the paperback release, Cline revealed on his blog that both the paperback and hardcover editions of Ready Player One contained an elaborately hidden easter egg. This clue will form the first part of a series of staged video gaming tests, similar to the plot of the novel. Cline also revealed that the competition's grand prize would be a 1981 DeLorean.
Like the hero of Ready Player One, Cline spent much of his young adulthood working a series of low-paying tech support jobs that allowed him to surf the Internet while on the clock and research his many pop-culture obsessions. He's a huge fan of the Back to the Future film series and owns a 1982 DeLorean DMC-12 sports car that has been modified to look like the time-travelling vehicle from the films. Cline’s all-time favorite video game is Black Tiger, which figures prominently into the plot of Ready Player One.
Cline lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and daughter. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 7/25/13.)
The science-fiction writer John Scalzi has aptly referred to Ready Player One as a "nerdgasm" [and] there can be no better one-word description of this ardent fantasy artifact about fantasy culture.... But Mr. Cline is able to incorporate his favorite toys and games into a perfectly accessible narrative.
Janet Maslin - New York Times
A most excellent ride.... [T]he conceit is a smart one, and we happily root for [the heroes] on their quest....[F]ully satisfying.
Gorgeously geeky, superbly entertaining, this really is a spectacularly successful debut.
Daily Mail (UK)
Enchanting.... Willy Wonka meets the Matrix. This novel undoubtedly qualifies Cline as the hottest geek on the planet right now. [But] you don't have to be a geek to get it.
A fun, funny and fabulously entertaining first novel.... This novel's large dose of 1980s trivia is a delight...[but] even readers who need Google to identify Commodore 64 or Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde, will enjoy this memorabilian feast.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Incredibly entertaining.... Drawing on everything from Back to the Future to Roald Dahl to Neal Stephenson's groundbreaking "Snow Crash," Cline has made Ready Player One a geek fantasia, '80s culture memoir and commentary on the future of online behavior all at once.
Triggers memories and emotions embedded in the psyche of a generation.... [Cline crafts] a fresh and imaginative world from our old toy box, and finds significance in there among the collectibles.
Ridiculously fun and large-hearted, and you don't have to remember the Reagan administration to love it.... [Cline] takes a far-out premise and engages the reader instantly.... You'll wish you could make it go on and on.
The grown-up's Harry Potter.... [T]he mystery and fantasy in this novel weaves itself in the most delightful way, and the details that make up Mr. Cline's world are simply astounding. Ready Player One has it all.
A treasure for anyone already nostalgic for the late 20th century.... But it’s also a great read for anyone who likes a good book.
[An] adrenaline shot of uncut geekdom, a quest through a virtual world.... In a bleak but easily imagined 2044, Wade Watts...lives primarily online, alongside billions of others, via a massive online game, OASIS....The science fiction, video game, technology, and geeky musical references pile up quickly, sometimes a bit much so, but sweet, self-deprecating Wade, whose universe is an odd mix of the real past and the virtual present, is the perfect lovable/unlikely hero
[A] geeky kid named Wade Watts...gets caught up in a worldwide virtual utopia called Oasis. There he finds himself on a virtual treasure hunt for a very real treasure. Described by Firstshowing.net as a blend of Avatar, The Matrix, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, this book promises to be really, really big. Get it, probably in multiples.
(Starred review.) An exuberantly realized, exciting, and sweet-natured cyber-quest. Cline’s imaginative and rollicking coming-of-age geek saga has a smash-hit vibe.
The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it's free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate.....[C]lever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate "epic throwdown" fail to stir the blood.
1. The OASIS becomes a part of daily life for users around the globe. What virtual realms (Google, Facebook, iCloud) do you depend on? What is at stake in the war against IOI, the internet service provider that wants to overturn Halliday’s affordable, open-source approach? Is it dangerous to mix profit and dependence on technology?
2. Explore the question of identity raised in the novel. What do the characters’ avatars tell us about their desires and their insecurities? In reality, does our physical appearance give false clues about who we really are? How does Parzival, transformed into a celebrity gunter, become Wade’s true self?
3. With a narrator who vividly captures the human experience, Ready Player One delivers a world that is easy for us to imagine. In the novel, what was at the root of the grim downturn for Earth’s inhabitants? Could your community start looking like the stacks by the year 2044?
4. How does love affect Wade’s rational mind? Would you have given Art3mis the tip about playing on the left side to defeat the lich (page 99, chapter ten)? Did you predict that she would turn out to be a friend or a foe?
5. How does public school in the OASIS compare to your experience in school? Has author Ernest Cline created a solution to classroom overcrowding, student apathy, and school violence?
6. In his Columbus bunker, Wade puts on so many pounds that he can no longer fit comfortably in his haptic chair. How would you fare in his weight-loss program, described in chapter nineteen, featuring a simulation gym, coaching from Max, and a lockout system that restricts his diet and forces him to exercise?
7. Wade’s OASIS pass phrase is revealed on page 199, at the end of chapter nineteen: “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.” What does this philosophy mean to him at that point in his life?
8. How is the novel shaped by the 1980s backdrop, featuring John Hughes films, suburban shows like Family Ties, a techno-beat soundtrack, and of course, a slew of early video games? Did Halliday grow up in a utopia?
9. Discuss Bryce Lynch’s financial situation, rigged so that Wade could infiltrate IOI. When does Wade become willing to “die trying”? How did you react to the image of debtors being forced into indentured servitude?
10. Wade doesn’t depend on religion to make moral decisions or overcome life-threatening challenges. What does the novel say about humanity’s relationship to religion? What sort of god is Halliday, creator of the OASIS universe?
11. Despite their introverted nature, the book’s characters thrive on friendship. Discuss the level of trust enjoyed by Halliday and Og, and among Wade, Aech, Art3mis, Daito, and Shoto. How is true power achieved in Ready Player One?
12. In the closing scenes, Halliday’s reward proves to be greater than mere wealth. What is Halliday’s ultimate prize? How did the rules of Halliday’s game help him determine the type of player who would likely win?
13. In his quest for the three keys, Wade is required to inhabit many imaginary worlds, including movies, video games, and a simulation of Halliday’s childhood home. Which of these virtual realities appealed to you the most? What sort of virtual reality is provided by a novel?
(Questions issued by publisher.)
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