Are you ready to be launched into another dystopian universe where a teenager inevitably saved the day? Oh and did you live through the eighties? I wasn’t but I have a soft spot for YA fiction, and heroes who definitely could’ve been me were I just born in a different time and place.

This month’s book is ‘Ready Player One’, a breakout first novel by Ernest Cline. We follow the story of Wade, a teenage boy, searching for the prize of a lifetime. Wade’s world is very different to ours, with technology having advanced so that most people live and work in a virtual world – the Oasis.

The Oasis is the stuff of dreams, you can do or be whoever you want, you can be totally anonymous, spend your days roaming new worlds and fighting monsters, or just chilling in the shopping and business districts. The Oasis is the soothe to an otherwise miserable world, where people are desperately poor, the worlds resources have been depleted and the only escape for those at the bottom of the pile is their other life in the Oasis.

Wade, our hero, is one of a group of treasure hunters known as gunters. Upon his death, the eccentric creator of the Oasis, James Halliday, set the world a challenge. Solve his riddles, open the gates and the Oasis and Hallidays entire fortune will be yours. The catch? Halliday was an awkward and unsocial-able man, a nerd, obsessed with the decade of his formative years – the eighties and the start of gaming. The search for his prize became known as ‘Egg Hunting’, soon shortened to gunting in honour of what has become known as Easter Eggs in video games. Sort of like a thumbs up from creators with a little bonus only dedicated players could find.

Wade is just a normal kid, still on high school, but a dedicated gunter in every spare moment. He studies on the Oasis, living with his auntie in poverty, a precarious shack and an old van to call home. However he doesn’t stay normal for long – Wade soon becomes the very first Gunter to crack Halliday’s riddle, putting himself at the top of the leaderboard and changing his life forever. Throw in companions Aech – a badass gunter at school (well the same school planet at least) and Art3mis, a blogger, a GIRL and Gunter that Wade immediately has a thing for and you have the god guys.

Unfortunately there are also bad guys, keen to take the Oasis for themselves and make the most money out of it, taking away the sanctuary so many have found there in tough times, and stopping at nothing to make it happen. A corporation with money and resources behind them, Innovative Online Industries (IOI) have mobilised an army of gunters in a relentless search.

This book is a dystopian future with a unique and often humorous nod back to the past. Being born in the nineties, I missed this particular decade but the pop culture lives on and as a gamer, many of the references were familiar regardless. Many people including myself have daydreamed I’m sure about life being a video game, and we were given a chance to watch this play out in an intense virtual world. The universe Cline has created is compelling and exciting, you’ll struggle to put the book down because you’re hooked into the Oasis, into the idea of being a young adult in total control of both your own and the world’s destiny.

What bothered me about the romance factor was it felt a bit like the manic pixie girl – Art3mis was amazing sure, but she felt like a 1 dimensional teenage boys dream girl and nothing more. She had interests, bravery and general badassery but what they had together didn’t feel realistic, and she didn’t seem to have as active a role in it as I wanted. Both the romance and her character lacked the depth it needed to go beyond side-kick to Parzival, and to be fair while this book wasn’t about her, wouldn’t it be nice if she was greater than what she was given?

In the increasingly long list of dystopian, young adult novels, ‘Ready Player One’ is impressive, genuinely unique and captures readers young and old. It will be interesting to see what Cline comes up with in the future.

Book Conversation Points:

  • Would you want to live in a brutal dystopian world if it meant you could have the Oasis?
  • What do you think a manic pixie girl is and did you think it was applicable to Wade’s feelings about Art3mis?
  • Are you an adult reading the young adult genre (like me?) and if so, why do you enjoy it?

Next month I’ll be reading ‘Fox’ by Bill Robertson, please join me!