Ready Player One
Cover to the first printing
|Genre||Science fiction and dystopian|
|August 16, 2011|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Ready Player One is a 2011 science fiction and dystopian novel by Ernest Cline. 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.
In the year 2044, Wade Watts, like most of humanity, escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia. Like others, Wade dreams of discovering a virtual Easter Egg that lies concealed within one of thousands of virtual worlds by the OASIS's creator, the late James Halliday. Halliday stipulated in his will that the person who discovers the egg will inherit his entire estate, including management and control of the OASIS itself.
For years, millions struggle fruitlessly to attain the prize, knowing only that Halliday’s clues are based in the pop culture of the late twentieth century; these individuals become known as "gunters" (a portmanteau of "egg hunter"). Wade becomes the first gunter to successfully find the first of three keys needed to unlock the egg, and meets fellow gunter Art3mis in the process. His success, and the following successes of Art3mis, his best friend Aech, and the brothers Daito and Shoto, gain the attention of Nolan Sorrento, the head of the "Oology Division" at Innovative Online Industries. IOI is a multinational corporation bent on taking control of the OASIS and transforming it into a corporate dystopia, in which OASIS users would be charged monthly for access to the OASIS and bombarded by advertisements. When Wade refuses to assist them in finding the first key, Sorrento and his associates attempt to murder Wade by bombing his trailer park (killing his neighbors and aunt in the process), though he comes out unscathed.
Wade, realizing the lengths to which Sorrento will go to achieve victory in the hunt and claim the Halliday estate, goes on the run under an assumed name and identity, eventually hiding out in Columbus, Ohio as he continues his hunt. During this time, he grows close to Art3mis, and the two begin an online relationship. At a birthday party for Ogden Morrow, one of the administrators and original creators of the OASIS, Wade admits his love for Art3mis, although she does not reciprocate his feelings. The two part ways after another attack from the "Sixers" (the term used to refer to IOI's militaristic corporate gunters).
Following Art3mis' rejection, Wade grows more reclusive and dedicates himself entirely to the hunt, ignoring the outside world as much as possible. During this time, he also loses contact with Aech due to his vulnerable emotional state, although he becomes closer friends with Daito and Shoto in exchange. Eventually, while Wade is working a low-level tech support job as a way to make ends meet, Art3mis finds the second of the three keys necessary to finish the hunt. Wade, berating himself for allowing his feelings to interfere with the hunt, rededicates himself to winning. With some assistance from Aech, Wade manages to evade Sorrento and his Sixer army and claim the second key for himself as well. During this time, Daito's avatar is removed from the scoreboard, and Wade believes he was killed in battle. Shoto visits Wade's stronghold and reveals that the Sixers actually murdered Daito in real life, throwing him from his apartment building to take his avatar out of the contest for good. Shoto vows to make Sorrento pay, and he and Wade part as friends.
As Wade, Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto all spend time attempting to clear the gate associated with the second key, the Scoreboard tracking the hunt's progress informs them that Sorrento and his cronies have successfully moved on and claimed the third and final key, and are the closest anyone has ever been to winning the hunt. Most gunters believe it to be over, yet Sorrento has not claimed the prize for some reason. Wade manages to make his way through another series of challenges, and claim a third key for himself. As he does, he finds a small clue that Sorrento missed regarding the final key and its victory condition, and realizes that the game will continue.
Sorrento then makes knowledge of the final gate public, erecting an impenetrable force field around Castle Anorak, which originally belonged to James Halliday and is named after his Dungeons and Dragons character from childhood. Wade concocts a plan to defeat Sorrento and bring the field down, to allow other gunters a chance to clear the final gate and claim the prize. He allows himself to be abducted by IOI's corporate police division under his assumed name, and from inside the company, hacks into their databases and sets a plan in motion to destroy the force field and win the hunt. Wade then escapes IOI's headquarters and meets with Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto online to discuss their plans. During this meeting, they are interrupted by Ogden Morrow, who offers them a safe haven at his home in Oregon from which they can conduct their battle with IOI and win the Hunt.
Wade meets Aech (who is revealed to actually be an African-American girl instead of the Caucasian male her avatar led him to believe), and the two of them travel to Oregon. Wade's plan is set in motion, and a bomb from the Sixer's armory is detonated against them, destroying the force field. In the ensuing battle, Shoto's avatar is killed by Sorrento, who is piloting an in-game recreation of Mechagodzilla. Wade, using an artifact that give him the powers of Ultraman, kills Sorrento's avatar in return and approaches the gate. As Wade, Art3mis, and Aech attempt to open it, they are killed by an extremely powerful magical artifact known as the Cataclyst from a secondary Sixer force. In addition, every other OASIS user present on the planet and in the current sector is destroyed, totaling to over half the OASIS population. Wade manages to survive the blast, having obtained an artifact earlier that provides him with a second life.
Wade finally manages to enter the third gate and remain ahead of Sorrento, who has taken control of another avatar and is right behind him in the gate's challenges. Successfully completing them first, Wade finds the egg to which Halliday referred, and is named the winner of the contest. Halliday gifts Wade with superuser access to the OASIS, with abilities to kill and revive other avatars at a whim, and teleport anywhere within the OASIS at will. He also shows Wade how to completely erase the OASIS if he feels it is necessary, to allow humanity to return to their real lives. In the end, Wade revives Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto's avatars and Sorrento is arrested for murdering Daito and attempting to murder Wade. Art3mis finally meets Wade in person, and the two decide to rekindle their relationship following their victory.
- Wade Owen Watts/Wade3/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 – Wade's best friend, fellow gunter, and rival in the quest to find the egg.
- Samantha Evelyn Cook/Art3mis – 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 – 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.
- James Donovan Halliday – creator of OASIS. He is based on the personalities of Howard Hughes and Richard Garriott.
- Ogden Morrow – 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.
The film rights were purchased by Warner Bros. the same day Cline finalized his publishing deal with Random House, one year prior to the novel's publication. Donald De Line signed on to produce with Cline adapting his own novel into a screenplay. Over the years, Eric Eason and Zak Penn assisted Cline with rewrites. Steven Spielberg signed on to direct in March 2015.
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- Quotations related to Ready Player One at Wikiquote