My reading for pleasure has always leaned toward science fiction and fantasy, or escapist fantasy as I have heard them called collectively.
In truth, fantasy more than science fiction. Largely because science fiction as a genre can sometimes be a difficult read when the science it contains extends further than my studies in science. I would invoke Asimov as an example. Deep science stories, while intriguing, can be heavy going for a pleasure read. I have still read a lot of him, but far from all his novels.
I remember getting a high school assignment for a book report for the first time. I was always an avid reader, but on that range of books specifically aimed at younger readers that are bridging that gap between kids books and grown up novels. This would be the first time I would do one on a novel. The class went to the school library to choose the novels for our assignment. Several of my classmates were complaining about having to read A WHOLE NOVEL!!! Since I read for fun I laughed at their protests. That was almost as good as getting an assignment to play computer games. So I made my choice of novel by going to the Fantasy section and finding the biggest book I could find.
It was The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey. I did not even realise that it was part of a series, and not the first novel in the series. That didn’t really matter as the story held its own as a stand alone story as do most of McCaffrey’s books, but I did tear through it and was back at the library checking out Dragonflight and Dragonquest the next day.
At the other extreme are light touch science fiction stories. The kind where the underlying science has about as much actual scientific basis as most superhero comic books. These can be entertaining, but can also wander across an intangible line to the absurd. It can also be something you get in the mood for.
For instance, the idea that Wolverine is a being with accelerated healing abilities that had experiments done to him is one thing. Suggesting that Wolverine can survive decapitation indefinitely because his healing powers are not bound by the laws of biology chemistry or physics, that is something else entirely.
Ready player one is not a deep science story. It is a relatively light read, that relies on both a fast paced storyline, and a plethora of 80s nostalgia references.
To give a sense of the story without the dreaded spoilers, I will quote the blurb from my copy:
Its the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty and disease are widespread.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked in to the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of then thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based on Halliday’s obsession with 80s pop culture. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle. Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.
So, a dystopian future with internet-gone-wild kind of deal with a treasure hunt and a buttload of 80s references. Some progression points are perhaps a little convenient, but by and large the story progression is as believable as can be expected in a dystopian-future-slash-virtual-reality-addicited-premise.
Being of the correct generation to have grown up through the 80s, I found the read genuinely enjoyable. And not just 80s TV and movies, but also 80s computer games, which I grew up playing.
I was far from surprised to hear that the author is working on a sequel (allegedly to be titled Ready Player Two).
What does surprise me is the news that a movie adaptation of the tale is in the works. Don’t get me wrong, I will be seeing that movie. But I can see the pop culture references being wasted on generations that missed the 80s. Try explaining the concept of a text based computer game to someone from the Playstation generation, and expect to be on the receiving end of some odd looks. And that is even if you can get rights to use so many iconic things to reference. Star Wars, Star Trek, Godzilla, Voltron just the first ones off the top of my head.
At any rate, I do recommend any 80s people that remember when video arcades with Pac Man machines were the pinnacle of gaming technology to pick up this book and give it a read before it gets adapted to the big screen. I am a little dubious about younger generations getting the same appreciation from it.
While searching for images to add to this post I Googled ’80s geek’. Here is one of the first pictures it returned.