Beyond the Stars is a series of Science Fiction related posts where I discuss different aspects of the genre and the many tropes and plot lines associated with it. Today, I focus on a series of posts related to Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.
Ready Player One Special:
Reviewing The Novel
Welcome to the next big special. This time, we’re looking at the new Ready Player One movie that came out in theaters not too long ago. As of this post, I have not seen the film yet, but I will see it soon and give you my thoughts.
For those who don’t know, Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, is a book about a virtual reality world known as OASIS. The main character is involved in a big scavenger hunt where whoever completes it will be awarded billions of dollars, but more importantly, control of OASIS itself. I’ve seen different takes on the “inside a video game world” plot. Most of them range from mediocre to bad because of a few reasons.
- One: The writer (or writers) have no idea how video games work.
- And two: Most of them are based on games in the 80s as if they’re the only games that ever existed. No nods to Call of Duty, Overwatch, The Witcher, or any other modern game.
And that’s why most of those don’t work. Well, this book is a godsend because it’s the kind I’ve been waiting for.
So this special will be divided into three parts.
- First, I look at the novel it’s based on, since I went through that first.
- Second, I talk about the movie itself and if it follows the source material at all.
- And finally, how video games changed my life forever and made me who I am.
So let’s begin with the book it’s based on.
Ready Player One
Ready Player One follows the tale of Wade Watts, AKA Parzival, who lives in an over-glorified trailer park known as the stacks, living with his aunt and uncle. His life is a mess, his world is falling apart, and he doesn’t have many friends in the outside world. However, OASIS is his private world, where anyone can do anything. Go on adventures, experience classic movies, and video games, and of course, go to school.
However, the world of OASIS is in the midst of the most epic scavenger hunt of all time. A hidden egg lurks in an undisclosed part of the world. Three keys are needed to find it, but they’re so hidden that it took five years to find it, but once the first key appears, all hell breaks loose and Wade’s life is forever in peril.
I grew up on plenty of video games and some of my favorites are RPGs. Some of them MMOs. To see this world portrayed so accurately and with numerous nods to nerd classics, it’s one that speaks to me as a gamer. I’ve waited for a book like this to exist, a true gaming novel.
As an aside, I’ve noticed a new genre sprouting in self-publishing called Lit-RPG. It’s sort of like this world where the hero is inside of an MMO-style world. Anime has done this a lot. Dot Hack, Sword Art Online, and many others. Yet there’s something about this book that says to me: he gets it. It’s a book by what might be a bigger nerd than I am. Granted, most of the book has nods to the 80s, and as I’ve mentioned, I never had the chance to experience the 80s, yet a number of these references would fly over the heads of anyone else.
References to Tokusatsu shows like Ultraman, which are actors facing rubber suit monsters (a more famous example would be Super Sentai, or Power Rangers as it’s known in the US).
As for the story, it’s one that’s relatable. It has that Summer Wars film where it’s an online world that is used for a number of purposes, like work and school. Summer Wars, strangely enough, came first, and the book came out in 2011. It’s full of adventure and humor that makes me wish this were the real thing, except without the life and death stuff.
The writing is good, but it can get a little plain at times. Wade has that matter-of-fact tone to him, but there’s a lot of exposition to explain the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, and the world itself. And a lot of the moments can be a little unrealistic and convenient at times. The connections Wade makes to the keys locations are a massive jump in logic.
For example, the copper key is located on his main planet, Ludus, where he’s trapped due to being a low-level character and being flat broke. He makes the connection by having a riddle that leads to the copper key. He makes the connection to a Latin phrase that has an alternate meaning and to an old Dungeons and Dragons module known as the Tomb of Horrors.
Wade is painted as a colossal nerd, and that’s how to win Halliday’s challenge. If you’re not as big of a nerd as he was, you’ll never win. But some of them, I would never have gotten the first time around, even if I knew as much as he did. Granted, nerds can make those kinds of leaps, but I felt a lot of them were a little convenient.
Aside from that, it’s a fun book. One by gamers, for gamers. I want to talk about the villains real quick because I can relate to this part.
The main villain is an evil megacorp known as IOI or Innovative Online Industries. They’re the leading distributor of online services (like Verizon or Comcast) and their goal is to have OASIS for themselves so that they can control the world. Evil online acts such as enforcing a monthly fee to an already poor society, controlling what you can do in the world, and so on.
Anyone who is an aficionado (not every day I use that word) of the Internet can attest to this. Even with recent events, such as the FCC rolling back Net Neutrality and Cambridge Analytica working with Facebook to invade everyone’s privacy (the primary reason why I no longer have an FB account for this site, for those wondering), the Internet is under constant threat.
This company, being a book about a video game, I liken this to a cross between Electronic Arts and SkyNet. SkyNet, as most know, is the evil organization in the Terminator series. EA, for those who aren’t big on games, is the makers of franchises such as Madden, Battlefield, and other franchises. They’re also considered one of the worst companies in the US (Two years in a row, mind you). They’re notorious for shady business practices and being big suits making video games.
It’s something any gamer can relate to when your favorite franchise is smacked with pay-to-win microtransactions, online multiplayer through a monthly fee, DRM-infested games (so the game has to be always online, even if the game is single player, and it’s tied to the platform you bought it on). Gamers hate this kind of stuff. OASIS is built as an open-source platform that anyone can add to.
And why SkyNet? Because these guys want the egg so badly, they’re willing to kill for it. Because having complete control over the largest platform in existence that changed so many lives, it’s no wonder that these guys are sick. They’re your usual twisted corporate executives, all suit, and no class. Sorrento is their leader, and he’s created an army of Sixers to beat them.
Nothing too special, but I feel the same when a game company turns their backs on a game they love and add all sorts of unwanted features to make a quick buck. These made for the perfect villains for an online adventure.
This book is one gamers have been waiting for and I enjoyed it all throughout. It did get slow in the beginning and the numerous points of exposition slowed the story a lot, but I thought it was one of the best in a long time. Of course, this did come out in 2011, but this book is unlike any other. A true online adventure in an MMO style that really speaks to you not as a gamer, but as a nerd.
So many references to pop culture, and the movie apparently has more, but this is a love letter to the nerd in all of us. A true story gamers wanted since the 80s and 90s when making a video game world ended in failure most of the time. This author is a guy who knows video games and understands where we’re coming from.
So that’s that. I’m going to see the film this weekend and I’ll give you my thoughts after. After that, I’m going to discuss why I love being a gamer and how it helps me with my writing.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
If you have any suggestions for future topics and reviews, hit me up on my social media channels and let me know your thoughts. I always read the feedback, even if I don’t respond. Your feedback is what keeps me going, so thank you for supporting me.
As a reminder, my website-exclusive short story, My Cat Is A Monster, is now live. My first paid short story, Do Not Stare Into The Eyes of a Kitsune, debuts June 5th, 2018. Tomorrow, I feature a small excerpt from the story, so keep an eye out for that.