Ready Player One
Cover to the first printing
|August 16, 2011|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Ready Player One is a science fiction novel by Ernest Cline. The book was published by Random House on August 16, 2011. The audiobook is narrated by Wil Wheaton. In 2012, the book received an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association division of the American Library Association and won the 2012 Prometheus Award.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (June 2014)|
By 2044, the exhaustion of Earth's fossil fuels has led to longstanding global scarcity and violent unrest. People take refuge in the OASIS, a massively multiplayer online virtual reality simulation that dominates all human activity. Its creator James Halliday had died five years earlier, leaving a will stating that his quarter-trillion-dollar fortune and controlling ownership of the OASIS will be awarded to the first person to find an Easter egg he had hidden behind a series of three gates unlocked by hidden keys. The only clues are Halliday's video will and his published journal. Those searching for the Egg are referred to as "gunters", a portmanteau of "egg hunters". Gunters become devotees of 1980s pop culture, with which Halliday had been obsessed.
18-year-old orphan and gunter Wade Watts lives on the outskirts of Oklahoma City in a trailer "stack" with his unkind aunt, along with other tenants. Although the OASIS is free to use, Wade's low-level avatar, Parzival, is confined to the school planet Ludus because he can't afford interplanetary travel.
Everything changes when he realizes that the first key is hidden inside a simulation of a Dungeons and Dragons module, Tomb of Horrors, located on Ludus, he is able to obtain it after besting the module's NPC final boss in the arcade game Joust.
He also encounters a famous blogger, Art3mis, who had recently discovered the key's hiding place. She realizes he obtained the key because his avatar's name appears on the scoreboard. With a help from Wade's tip, she succeeds in obtaining the key the next day. Wade's best friend, Aech, also soon finds the key, using his knowledge of the fact that Parzival was unable to leave Ludus (until obtaining valuable treasures inside the Tomb); soon, it is uncovered that Parzival and Aech both attend school on Ludus, and the module is overrun by gunters and by employees of IOI, a multinational corporation that is the ISP for most of the world and which seeks to find the Egg in order to take control of the OASIS and monetize it; IOI avatars are known as "Sixers", because their names are all six-digit employee numbers starting with 6.
Two Japanese avatars, Daito and Shoto, obtain the key before the Sixers barricade the module and begin farming the key; the five non-Sixer avatars become known as the "High Five". Meanwhile, Wade locates the first gate (each key and gate also yields a clue to the location of the next challenge) by entering a simulation of Halliday's Middletown, Ohio childhood home and beating the computer game Dungeons of Daggorath. He wins the gate's challenge, which requires him to reenact the movie War Games.
Wade becomes financially secure by accepting endorsement deals for Parzival. He agrees to a virtual meeting with Nolan Sorrento, who leads IOI's hunt for the Egg. After Wade turns down Sorrento's offers of lucrative compensation for his cooperation, Sorrento reveals that he knows Wade's true identity and, after Wade's continued defiance, carries out a threat to blow up his trailer (destroying several adjacent stacks), unaware that Wade is actually in a nearby hideout.
The attack kills Wade's aunt, but he is more upset over the loss of an elderly neighbor, his only friend outside of the OASIS. The High Five meet online, but brothers Daito and Shoto take offense and leave; no alliance is formed. Wade goes off the grid, and under an assumed name travels to Columbus, Ohio, now a modestly prosperous metropolis that is home to IOI headquarters and the OASIS servers. He spends most of his time with Art3mis, to the detriment of their efforts in the Hunt. After he tells her that he's in love with her, she cuts off all contact.
Wade befriends Daito and Shoto by completing a difficult quest with them. Six months after Wade moved to Columbus, Art3mis finds the second key; the Sixers then alert the entire OASIS to her approximate location by converging on it. Wade attempts to locate her and the key, along the way discovering an unrelated Easter egg inside the simulation: an out-of-order Pac-Man cabinet that becomes functional when plugged in and which, upon Wade's successful completion of a perfect game, awards him a unique quarter. Aech finds the key and reveals its location to Wade, as Wade had led him to the first key. Wade then succeeds in finding the key, in the form of a Cap'n Crunch giveaway whistle inside a simulation of the interactive fiction game Zork. Shoto also obtains the key, but Daito is killed; Shoto later informs Parzival that the Sixers were able to defeat Daito because they murdered Daito's player.
The Sixers quickly find and clear the second gate and obtain the third key. Wade then locates the gate inside a recreation of the Tyrell Building from Blade Runner. He clears it by defeating an immersive simulation of the video game Black Dragon, and then locates the third key inside a simulation of Megadon, a city described in Rush's album 2112. Wade determines that the final gate is inside Castle Anorak, which was the home of Halliday's avatar, and which the Sixers have already impenetrably barricaded.
Parzival sends Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto instructions to match his progress in the Hunt. In the real world, Wade infiltrates IOI's headquarters and escapes with information on IOI's strategy and proof of their crimes, including the fact that Shoto's and Art3mis' players have been targeted for abduction and murder; he releases this proof to the media.
The Sixers have been unable to enter the third gate, while a clue based on School House Rock's "Three Is a Magic Number" leads the High Five to realize that three of them will need to enter together. They invite the entire OASIS to join them in attacking the Sixers, but they are unsure of how to proceed, knowing that IOI is trying to kill them in reality. The co-creator of the OASIS, Ogden Morrow, then reveals that he has been spying on them; his avatar, Og, is an omnipotent superuser (as had been Halliday's avatar, Anorak). He sends private jets to transport them to his home in Oregon. Aech drives from Pittsburgh to travel with Wade, who is surprised to learn that his best friend is Helen Harris, an African-American lesbian, but quickly realizes that she is still the person he has known for years.
In Oregon, the four players log into the OASIS and meet at Castle Anorak (Art3mis and Shoto not yet having met Wade or Helen in person), where a sabotage planned by Wade from inside IOI comes to fruition, dropping an in-game shield and exposing the Sixers to attack. In a battle involving the majority of the OASIS population, Shoto's avatar is killed by Sorrento's, which is then killed by Parzival. He, Aech, and Art3mis unlock the third gate, but the Sixers then activate a superweapon that kills everyone present.
Wade discovers that the quarter he received acts as an extra life, leaving him alone to challenge the gate before it can be cleared by additional Sixers who are coming in from beyond the blast zone. Vowing to share the winnings with the other three, he enters. He succeeds in setting a high score in the arcade game Tempest and reenacting the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Finally, he must play the Atari game Adventure, which featured the first known video game Easter egg; in place of the original Easter egg, he finds Halliday's. Anorak appears and grants him superuser omnipotence, as well as exclusive access to a "Big Red Button" that will destroy the OASIS if Wade ever deems it necessary.
Parzival uses his new powers to resurrect Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto, but only Aech and Shoto appear; they inform Wade that Art3mis' player is waiting for him outside – and that Sorrento has been arrested. In Ogden's garden, Art3mis introduces herself as Samantha. He affirms his love for her and they share a kiss.
Wade discovered that for the first time, he prefers reality over OASIS.
- Wade Owen Watts/Parzival – the protagonist, a poor orphan from the "stacks" surrounding metropolitan Oklahoma. Wade names his OASIS character Parzival after Percival, the Arthurian knight famous for his quest for the grail, and dedicates his life to finding James Halliday's Easter egg.
- Aech/Helen Harris – Wade's best friend, fellow gunter, and rival in the quest to find the egg.
- Art3mis/Samantha Evelyn Cook – a famous gunter and blogger from Canada. Wade has a huge cyber-crush on her, which is complicated by their competition in search of the egg.
- Nolan Sorrento/IOI-#655321 – a high-ranking official of Innovative Online Industries, the multinational corporation that serves as an Internet service provider for most of the world and hopes to take over and monetize the OASIS. Sorrento is head of IOI's Oology (the science of searching for Halliday's Easter egg) Division, and serves as the primary antagonist of the novel.
- Daito and Shoto – Japanese gunters who work as a team in their quest for the egg. They have a generally tense, but sometimes-friendly relationship with Wade, Aech, and Art3mis. At one point in the story, Daito is murdered by IOI agents, forcing Shoto to join Wade and his friends.
- James Donovan Halliday/Anorak – creator of OASIS. He is based on the personalities of Howard Hughes and Richard Garriott.
- Ogden Morrow/Og – Co-creator of the OASIS and best friend of James Halliday. He is among the few in the world who is rich and can afford luxuries that most people cannot. Despite this, he is humble and respects his deceased friend's game and the hunt for the egg.
The New York Times said "The book gets off to a witty start" but noted that it lacks at least one dimension, stating that gaming had overwhelmed everything else about this book. USA Today wrote that the novel "undoubtedly qualifies Cline as the hottest geek on the planet right now". NPR said that the book was "ridiculously fun and large-hearted". Cline "takes a far-out premise and engages the reader instantly" with a "deeply felt narrative [that] makes it almost impossible to stop turning the pages".
Easter Egg hunt
Ten months after the first edition release, Cline revealed on his blog that Ready Player One itself contained an elaborately hidden easter egg. This clue would form the first part of a series of staged video gaming tests, similar to the plot of the novel. Cline also revealed that the competition's grand prize would be a DeLorean. The game Ultimate Collector: Garage Sale by Austin based developer Portalarium was featured in one part of the contest. The final stage of the contest was announced on August 1 2012, and was to set a world record on one of several classic arcade or Atari 2600 games. This was completed on August 9 2012 by Craig Queen, who set a new world record in Joust. He was awarded the DeLorean on the TV show X-Play.
- "Ready Player One by Ernest Cline". Random House Publishers. 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- "YALSA's Alex Awards". American Library Association. 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
- Libertarian Futurist Society. "PROMETHEUS AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED". Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "How Lord British Inspired Anorak | Ernie's Blog". Ernestcline.com. 2011-10-19. Retrieved 2012-07-07.
- Sims, Tony (June 22, 2011). "A Few Minutes With Fanboys Writer Ernest Cline on Ready Player One". Wired.
- Maslin, Janet (August 14, 2011). "‘Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline – Review". The New York Times.
- "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. August 19, 2011.
- Schaub, Michael (2011-08-22). "'Player One': A Winning, Geeked-Out Page-Turner". NPR. Retrieved 2012-07-07.
- "Three Hidden Keys Open Three Secret Gates | Ernie's Blog". Ernestcline.com. 2012-06-05. Retrieved 2012-07-07.
- "Ready Player One Author Ernest Cline Gives Away a DeLorean on X-Play". g4tv.com. 2012-08-30. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
- Billington, Alex (June 18, 2010). "WB Picks Up Ernie Cline's New Geek Novel 'Ready Player One'". . Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- "Screenwriter Zak Penn Rewriting 'Ready Player One' for Warner Bros". firstshowing.net. Retrieved 25 June 2014.