I think Ernest Cline wrote this book for me…. ME! Growing up, I have always been a geek. My head feels like a giant sponge sucking up all the latest news about Madonna, Duran Duran and the likes rather than storing the important Math concepts. O Levels, what O Levels. After school I would hang out at CD shops or read music magazines in bookshops. I once walked the entire Orchard Road from Scotts Road to North Bridge Road just to look for Julee Cruise’s latest album and hugging it to my bosom when I found the last copy at Da Da Records at Funan Centre. My mind doesn’t scream out “why didn’t I just hit Da Da from the get-go?”; my mind says “you have earned this by going the longest route. Julee appreciates you”. If there’s an examination on pop culture I would ace it without much studying. Those are great years; the 80s are the best years of my life in terms of music, movies and books. As you can see, good friends are not easy to come by or me then, at least for crazy geeky boys like me. But once in a while when someone says he or she is into Madonna, I will throw out some test questions like “what do you think of Super Pop?” just to gauge his or her geek power. If I see the light in their eyes and the unabashed wall of inhibition comes down, I know that person is a soul after my own heart. Really, it is really hard to find another me out there, but finally after all these years I have just found him and his name is Ernest Cline.
Ready Player One takes place in the not-so-distant future–the world has turned into a very bleak place, but luckily there is OASIS, a virtual reality world that is a vast online utopia. People can plug into OASIS to play, go to school, earn money, and even meet other people (or at least they can meet their avatars), and for protagonist Wade Watts it certainly beats passing the time in his grim, poverty-stricken real life. Along with millions of other world-wide citizens, Wade dreams of finding three keys left behind by James Halliday, the now-deceased creator of OASIS and the richest man to have ever lived. The keys are rumored to be hidden inside OASIS, and whoever finds them will inherit Halliday’s fortune. But Halliday has not made it easy. And there are real dangers in this virtual world. Stuffed to the gills with action, puzzles, nerdy romance, and 80s nostalgia, this high energy cyber-quest will make geeks everywhere feel like they were separated at birth from author Ernest Cline.
Cline’s debut is not high art, but it is high concept turned into an addictive crackerjack page-turner for a nerd-geek like me. It is a total geekagasm and I just explode and explode in geeky wide-eye pleasure as I turned the pages furiously. It feels like a nostalgia trip down memory lane as it brings up all manners of 80s retro pop culture references. The best thing is that I know most of the references, especially the music and film trainspotting elements. The narrative is very imaginative, captivating and definitely cinematic and it has a big heart beating right in the centre. It also works as a fascinating social commentary which hits a raw nerve in these contemporary technological times. Crammed to the Ying Yang with 80s trivia, Cline never forgets to develop his characters and make the narrative compelling. The only nit-pick I have is the overwhelming virtual world that almost eclipses the real world.
I rub my hands in glee as I look forward to the film adaptation on March 2018. The film will be directed by some guy called Spielberg.