In the year 2044, most of the world has pretty much gone to hell. Most of humanity spend the majority of their available time hooked into OASIS, the virtual reality environment that contains any world or environment you could possibly imagine. As his real life involves being an orphan being raised by a greedy aunt in a dilapidated trailer park, Wade Watts' only chance at escape from his dismal existence means completing the ultimate quest, set down by James Halliday, the creator of OASIS, upon his death. The first person to unravel the riddles posed in his video will, and solve the various puzzles, will inherit his entire staggering fortune.
Wade is a gunter (short for egg hunter), one of the many who have dedicated their lives to finding Halliday's golden egg. Halliday loved anything relating to the 1980s and nerd trivia, and Wade has played all the computer games, watched all the TV shows and movies, read all the comic books and exhaustively studied anything to do with Halliday and his life, in an attempt to figure out where the first key is hidden. Being young and poor, he's not really able to travel much within the OASIS, he can only really stay on the educational planet where he goes to school. But one day, nearly dozing off in Latin class, he realizes that the location of the first challenge may indeed be located nearby.
As Wade becomes the first gunter to appear on the giant virtual scoreboard in the OASIS, the entire world's attention is suddenly turned towards him. He's no longer an unknown nobody, he's a person to be reckoned with, and there are powerful forces in the world willing to kill to reach Halliday's prize first. Soon Wade finds himself homeless, hunted and in danger for his life, simply because his encyclopedic knowledge of Halliday trivia has brought him closer to competing the quest. Can he defeat the evil corporation, prove himself worthy to the girl he loves, and win the ultimate game once and for all?
Ready Player One is stuffed full of nerd and geek references, and while I grew up watching my brothers play many of the computer games referenced, and watching the movies and listening to the music mentioned, I didn't even get a fraction of the stuff Cline has crammed into his debut novel. To fully appreciate and really enjoy the book, I suspect you have to actually remember the 1980s, it just won't resonate with you otherwise. While I thought the book had a slow start, and it took me a few chapters to really warm to Wade and get interested in the world he lived in, once the plot really got going, I was completely hooked. Reading it is a bit like playing a computer game, with end of level bosses, and new and bigger challenges until the final climax. Part dystopian sci-fi, part adventure, part romance and part thriller, Ready Player One was a delight to read, and I join the ranks of devoted fans of the novel. I can't wait to see what Cline writes as his follow up book.