Ready Player One (Audiobook) | 066

Dave discusses the audiobook Ready Player One written by Ernest Cline and read by Wil Wheaton.

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Last month we got a glimpse of Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film, Ready Player One, which is based on a novel by Ernest Cline and due to release in 2018. I just finished the audiobook, which is brilliantly read by Wil Wheaton. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, let me cover the overall plot.

In the year 2045, there is a super-realistic MMO-style game called the OASIS that people play to escape the dystopian world they live in. The creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, has died and left his entire fortune to anyone who can find the three keys he has hidden throughout the digital landscape. These keys unlock an easter egg that holds the fortune. The clues, however are based on deep knowledge of 1980s pop culture. The protagonist of the story is Wade Watts (called Parzival inside the OASIS), an 18-year old with an encyclopaedic mind when it comes to the 80s.

As you may have heard, there are loads of references in this book. A lot of them are extremely obscure and some may sound familiar if you grew up in the 80s or 90s. I personally wanted to go back and make an index of everything mentioned, but that might take forever.

The book released in 2011, but I heard about it a couple of years later and never had the chance to check it out until now. Seeing the teaser trailer for the film triggered the thought of, “Oh, I haven’t read that yet. I really need to!” I quickly went to Audible, tracked down the book and was pleasantly surprised to find a version read by Wil Wheaton. (You might know him from Star Trek, Stand By Me, or his YouTube show, Tabletop.)

The world Cline created in RP1 is massive. Given that the majority (say 95%) of the book takes place in the OASIS, that’s not surprising. The descriptions and details given to set up the OASIS itself is somewhat overwhelming, too. Nevertheless, it’s a world built for us – the pop culture geeks and nerds. As I mentioned before, there are more references in the book than you can shake a wand at. And the references are really the plot device in RP1. Without them you still have a fun adventure, but it would make it less special.

It’s very easy to see that Cline is writing about his favorite parts of 80s pop culture and when you really think about it, he, himself is James Halliday, the master creator in the book. I read an article recently that talked about how self-indulgent the book as a whole is. Do I agree? Maybe a little, but what I find fascinating is how these thousands of references piqued my own interest in a lot of video games, movies and television shows that I never had the chance to experience or even the desire to until now. Essentially, it’s a nostalgia fest.

As good as the book is and as good as it made me feel with all of the references, I have to say there were a couple of issues that bothered me. I don’t think these are too spoilery, but if you’re waiting to read the book or watch the movie next year, feel free to skip this.

In some ways, I feel that the book could be a kind of warning for what society could be with the rise of social media. We’re getting consumed by our own selfishness and the digital worlds and avatars that we’re creating for ourselves. That’s essentially what the OASIS is – an escape from an otherwise terrible existence.

Another aspect of this is: will we really be living glamorous, digital lives like this when so much of the world is as dystopian as Cline presents it? How is it affordable? Sure, that’s not a question some people may usually ask, but it was a constant in my mind while listening to the book.

Overall, I loved Ready Player One. Wil Wheaton’s performance for the audiobook was perfect. There was definitely some information overload going on with some of the details, but in a way, it gives me another reason to go back and revisit the world. It also introduced me to some aspects of pop culture I never would have known about otherwise. It’s even given me some ideas for future episodes of the podcast. How about that?

So, I highly recommend Ready Player One since you’re a listener of Geek This, even if you aren’t into video games that much. There’s plenty to digest. A word of caution, though, that I forgot at the beginning: there is some strong language in the book. I wasn’t expecting it, but I wanted to make sure I gave you a heads up before you jumped into it.

If you’ve read the book or end up reading it, let me know!

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