A while back I saw the hardback (softback?) of “Ready Player One” on display at some big-box bookstore. I think the flashy cover drew my eye. At the time, it looked interesting, but I don’t really buy paper books anymore, plus I’m always suspicious of those books on those display tables – seems like they’re the ones the publishers want you to buy, which probably aren’t the ones I want to read. Turns out that was totally not the case with Ready Player One.
A few days ago, it came up as “recommended” while I was cruising for new Kindle books. A quick read of the reviews and I was all over it. I’m not a book reviewer, and this blog isn’t about reviewing that kind of thing, but in this case, I just need to gush! Turns out Ernie Cline is a huge fan of 80’s era geek stuff – plus he lives in Austin AND drives a Delorian! Just driving a Delorian makes him cool in my eyes. He’s also got a bunch of Ghost Buster stuff that makes the arguably pretty decent costumes I made (back in the 80’s, I should add :−) look like amateur hour.
In “Ready Player One“, Ernie concocts a future (2044) where deep knowledge of all things 80’s, especially geeky things, becomes suddenly very relevant. Things I geeked out over in the 80’s, like role playing games, early console games, early PC’s, dial-up BBS’s, 80’s geek movies like Wargames and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, dorky 80’s music like Oingo Boing and Duran Duran…all these things and myriads of other details feature front and center in the plot.
I played D&D! I played those dorky Atari 2600 games! I spent man-weeks and hundreds of dollars of allowance at Aladan’s Castle playing video games! I had a Tandy Color Computer (still do :−), a Sinclair 1000, a TI-99/4, and an Apple II! (Sadly, I detected no reference to the Commodore Amiga computer line…COME ON, Ernie! ;−) And of course, I’ve seen every movie referenced in the book. While I wasn’t quite as into the esoterica of console games, anime & manga and music as the book’s characters, 90% of the references totally struck home.
I don’t want to spend a long time reviewing the book here – you can read much more comprehensive and well-written reviews on Amazon, but I’ll try to some up the plot briefly, in case reading this can prompt you to buy the book, which you should. Basically, a fictional computer game genius/mogel, James Halliday (now super-rich), has created the worlds most pervasive MMO, the OASIS. Sort of a combination of Second Life, plus every MMO game your can name (World of Warcraft, Everquest, Eve Online, etc., etc.) the OASIS is so pervasive that it has essentially replaced the internet. Play, business, entertainment – it’s all conducted online in OASIS. Well, when Halliday dies of old age, his will stipulates that the first player to complete a quest wins his fortune ($250B or something like that) and control of the OASIS and it’s parent company. These stakes are huge, so millions of people are hunting for the keys to the quest and brushing up on 80’s esoterica – not to mention some giant clans and at least one powerful, greedy, and downright evil multinational. Since, like the author, Halliday was weened on 80’s geekdom, completing the quest requires substantial knowledge of all things 80’s or geeky, not to mention deep skilz in 80’s console and PC games. The quest is also not without “real-world” jeopardy.
As I’m reading this book, I’m thinking, “man, if done right, this would be a freaking awesome movie.” Hurrah! – in the afterword, Ernie mentions there was already a big bidding war between some studios over the rights and it looks like Warner Brothers is actually going to make it! The producer seems to be Donald De Line, who also produced Green Lantern, which is a big warning flag, as far as I’m concerned, but at least he has some experience with heavy CG, which would be critical. Also, Ernie wrote the first couple of drafts of the screen play (he also wrote Fan Boys, by the way – you gotta love this guy!) so maybe there is hope. There’s a pretty cool interview with Ernie here. He cops to being a huge Snow Crash fan, by the way – probably my all-time favorite book, and one I would really like to see done well as a movie. Here’s to hoping they don’t make a mess of this one!