Friday, August 8, 2014

Ready Player One

I used to be an addict. I would play until I got a cramp in my hand, and then I wouldn't be able to get up off the floor. At the age of twelve, I'd much rather sit in my basement in front of a screen, consuming "pac-dots" and "power pellets" so I can get extra points for attacking the ghosts instead of playing outside. It's an addiction, and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline describes it so well that I was immersed in Parzival's world, as well.

Parzival is Wade's online name. In the OASIS, a virtual world that is free to access, Wade can be free of his terrible life, living as Parzival. Living in "the stacks" (stacks of trailer homes) with his wicked aunt and two other families, twelve-year-old Wade has no life, except what he experiences in the OASIS. When the creator of the OASIS (James Halliday) dies, he unlocks a new game. This search for the ultimate "Easter egg" draws Wade even further into the OASIS, his drug of choice.

(Spoiler alert!)

Five years later, Parzival becomes famous, for he accesses the first key to the puzzle. The entire world is alerted via the scoreboard in everyone's virtual reality. This discovery pushes Wade further into the depths of the virtual world, as he now has more access to more areas in the OASIS, and he is wanted by terrorists who'd love to know what he knows. His avatar has more power and wealth, so Wade is able to move away from the stacks and into his own apartment. Here, he paints over the window, arms the door, and has no contact with the outside world. He even seems to become less human - shaving all the hair from his now pale body, and not wearing anything every day except his high-tech immersion rig. Everything he needs is ordered online and delivered through his high-security system.

Because the reader is so caught up in the action and suspense, it might be easy to not catch on to the theme of the book. The budding online romance Wade once had is shut down so both of them can play the game as best they can, and the second half of the book is focused on one thing - getting the next keys so the company that owns everything else does not end up owning the OASIS, as well. The reader is brought back to the theme when it turns out no one can win this game on his or her own. Players are brought together in the real world so that one of them can win this game once and for all. Halliday meets Parzival to basically give him the keys to the virtual kingdom, with one warning - "Don't make the same mistake I made. Don't hide in here forever." Once the ultimate goal is attained, there is really one MORE goal - Wade wants to meet his love. She will only meet him OFFline. It isn't until page 372 that Wade admits, "It occurred to me then that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the OASIS." Reality is not online; interaction with human beings is the ultimate goal. Real life has its own Easter eggs for us to find.

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