I wanted to read the novel before the Ready Player One movie comes out, and so I grabbed it and read it last week. Audible was quick to fill my fix on that, especially since I’ve built up a few credits while reading all of the Honor Harrington books over again. So what is the premise of Ready Player One? In a nutshell, the real word is, in the immortal words credited to President Trump by one congressman, a shit hole so bad that nobody wants to live in it. So most people spend their time in the OASIS, basically the successor to the Internet with an MMO-style interface. People work, play, go to school, and live as much as possible on the OASIS.

I do have two issues with the book. The first is just how bad the real world is. The book was written in 2010, and factors the 2012 collapse of society due to the energy crisis that caused gas prices to spiral out of control so normal people could no longer afford to own or drive vehicles. Only the ultra rich can fly, and the roads are crumbling because nobody has the money to maintain them. Living in a 2018 where none of this happened, I get a bit of a chuckle out of the age-old lesson of writers to never make the mistake of writing world-changing events into a story you want people to read within a decade of its publication.

The other major issue I have with the book is the “Ironman” mode of its avatars. There is no save. There is no second chance. If you are killed in the OASIS, your avatar is deleted, along with everything it is carrying at the time, and you have to start over with a new, level 1, avatar. Now, there are some people who enjoy playing games in Ironman mode, and so some games offer it as an option. But the majority of gamers want a save point feature at the very least. ALL popular MMOs feature some form of “getting better” after you are “knocked out” or “mostly killed” or whatever terminology they use for losing a battle. Basically, the vast majority of players do not want to lose a character they’ve played for hours, days, months, or years because of one mistake. Players want to keep what they’ve collected, or paid real money for.

In the real world, any product like the OASIS would have competitors that would offer a casual style of play, and the OASIS would be forced to add that mode itself, or be washed away by the vast number of casual players, or people who simply only have an account to work or shop. Also, the OASIS allows only ONE avatar per account. One character that is you and only you. No other characters allowed. Competition from another company would force them to add multiple characters like every major MMO has now as well.

But, Ready Player One lives in a universe where there is no competition to the OASIS, so the OASIS does not need to offer multiple characters or save slots or anything like that. That is one of the weaker parts of the world creation in my humble opinion. So that is my major hangup when it comes to the world building of the novel. It doesn’t work. But, that does not mean the novel is not enjoyable.

The novel starts with the owner of the OASIS dying and leaving an announcement to everyone on the OASIS that he left a game hidden in the OASIS. Whoever finishes the game first, will be his one and only heir, and become the new owner of the OASIS. He gives us clues, mostly relating to the 1980s that he grew up in, so Duran Duran, flying Deloreans, and vintage bad 1980s movies are rather popular once again amongst those players who are trying to figure out the clues. I have to say, I rather enjoyed the classic arcade scenes.

And that leads to the part of Ready Player One that I think was done best. The world building INSIDE the OASIS. People fly between worlds on their own Starship Enterprises, Millenium Falcons, Firefly-class transports, or anything else you can think of from TV and movies. The main character has a flying Delorean as his ground vehicle, and an X-Wing for fighter combat. These are the kinds of things that players will want to do in an open-world game like that. People do it on the sly right now. Give them the chance to buy it for a small amount of money and it is a license to print money. I can see major clans operating Imperial Star Destroyers or Galaxy-class starships. And who wouldn’t want to pay a few bucks to drive a virtual Ferrari around the track? Or on the streets? Racing game players do that all the time.

My final verdict? It’s a fun treasure hunt story, wrapped in 1980s nostalgia that hit me right in the feels. And it shows the kind of world I think we are preparing to create on the internet, if we can get past all the licensing hurdles. Like Second Life on steroids, this is the kind of virtual world most of us would love to be part of. And it is fun to read.

I give it two wakka-wakka-wakka Pac-Mans munching on the powerup. Look out little ghosties, legions of player ones are ready to come for you. 🙂

I hope the upcoming movie will be just as fun to watch.