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 the near-future year of 2044, the exhaustion of Earth's fossil fuels has led to longstanding global scarcity and massive aggregation of urban sprawls. While social proximity is at its highest ever, people take refuge in the OASIS, a free-to-use and comparatively idyllic massively multiplayer online virtual reality simulation that easily consumes much of human attention and investment. OASIS' creator James Halliday has died five years earlier. Upon his death, his video will is released wherein he states 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. These gates can only be unlocked within the Oasis environment by three hidden keys. After an initial frenzy, it becomes clear that even the first key is extremely well hidden, and the search recedes into the background of everyday life. Halliday's partner, Ogden Morrow, declines to help with the hunt, and recedes from public life.
Those searching for the Egg in the most zealous fashion are referred to as "gunters", a portmanteau of "egg hunters". Gunters become disciples, scholars, and historians of James Halliday, videogames, 1980s pop culture, role playing games, and other particular interests that Halliday had been obsessed with in order to obtain clues and insights into where the keys, gates, and egg could be located. The monopolistic Innovative Online Industries, shortened to IOI, is also searching for the Egg, in the hope of monetising OASIS, an outcome which most Gunters dread. Its own counterpart to the Gunters are the well-funded Oology division, manifested in the digital world as the "Sixers": users whose names are their six-digit employee numbers which begin with the number six.
Eighteen-year-old orphan and gunter Wade Watts lives on the outskirts of Oklahoma City in a trailer "stack" with his opportunist aunt, her grimy boyfriend, and over a dozen other tenants. Although the OASIS is free to use, Wade's low-level avatar, Parzival, is confined to the school planet Ludus because of his financial situation, although OASIS houses thousands of planets. 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, the demilich Acererak, in the arcade game Joust.
The discovery of the key attracts the attentions of the media and the world's leading Gunters. Wade, his friend Aech, the elite Gunter Art3mis, and the Japanese duo Daito and Shoto are soon at the forefront of the search for the Egg, appearing as the "High Five" on the public leaderboard that tracks progress in the search. Finding the first key rewarded Wade with experience points and a large amount of in-game credit, which is used like digital currency in the real world as well. He also signs a number of endorsement deals and this, combined with the game reward, allows him to leave Ludus and continue his quest with financial independence. However IOI's Oology division leader, Nolan Sorrento, invites him to join their team. When Wade refuses, Sorrento threatens to blow up his trailer, having tracked him down in the real world. Wade stands his ground, and can only listen from his hideout as the trailer and several surrounding stacks are destroyed.
Wade goes "off the grid" as IOI begins pursuing him in both the real-world and OASIS. The High Five bond over the search, cooperating and sharing the answers to the puzzles as they strive to stay ahead of the Sixers. Wade is spending most of his time with Art3mis, to the exclusion of his own hunting efforts, until he confesses his love for her and she cuts off all contact. Daito is killed by IOI in the real world. The survivors realise that the last gate will only unlock for three people working together; meanwhile the Sixers have deduced that the last gate is in its creator's old virtual home, Castle Anorak, and have barricaded it to prevent others from completing the puzzle before they do.
Wade creates a fake identity and places himself in debt with IOI and is taken into indentured servitude. Forced to work in one of their offices, it's revealed that this was a risky trojan horse plan to infiltrate their headquarters. He is able uncover the evidence that they were involved in the destruction of his home and are preparing to abduct or murder Art3mis and Shoto. He escapes with a flash drive containing ten zettabytes of incriminating data and later releases it to the media. The remaining members of the High Five invite the users of OASIS to help break the blockade. Ogden Morrow reveals himself to the group, expresses his support for their cause, and brings them together in the real world at his home. Only Wade and Aech - an African-American woman named Helen Harris, to Wade's brief surprise - have a chance to meet face-to-face before they hook themselves up to Morrow's high-end VR equipment.
Wade uses his inside information to lower the Sixers' defences and the counterattack begins. Shoto falls to Sorrento's avatar, before Wade in turn kills Sorrento's; they will be locked out of the simulation until a set period of time passes. The remaining members of the group are able to breach the third gate, but the Sixers activate The Cataclyst: a superweapon that wipes out everyone in the battlefield. Sixer reinforcements will reach the Third Gate before any of the Gunters revive.
Wade is surprised to realise that he is still in the simulation; a quarter, found when he finished a perfect game of Pac-Man while searching for the second key, has given him an extra life. Vowing to share the winnings with the other three, he enters the final gate. He succeeds in setting a high score in the arcade game Tempest by using a glitch built into the software 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. His avatar Anorak appears and grants Wade 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 discovers 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. His appearance and personality are described as being "a cross between Albert Einstein and Santa Claus." Despite being rich, 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.
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