June 14th, 2013

Book with cat 4

Book #28: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

What a fun, entertaining story this was. The moral and the ending made me sad, but I don't think it would have that effect on most people.

Ready Player One was set in the near future. The world continued on as it is today, the environment is in worse shape, unemployment is worse, most people are out of work and living in poverty, fossil fuels are all used up, etc. But there's one good thing in the world -- no matter how poor you are, there's OASIS.

OASIS is a cross between Second Life and Virtual Reality. It's an online universe made up of thousand of planets (planet-sized planets, not game-planets that might be explored in a day). The planets are all made by the game designers and the players. There are themed worlds, like Star Trek, WoW, Firefly, as well as hundreds of custom worlds. Some are tech-based, some are magic-based, and some are both or neither. There are PvP and non-PvP worlds as well.

And best of all? OASIS is free to play. This means that the whole world plays it. It's the biggest and most successful "game" ever created. (The company makes money through micro transactions, selling game real estate to RL companies to set up shops, etc.) The man who invented it became the richest person in the world. Then he died.

Being a game designer with no family or friends, he left a will stating that anyone who could solve a series of in-game puzzles and easter egg hunts would get all of his money, and from there the story takes off.

Some of the reviews of this book said that there was too much description of OASIS and that it slowed the story down. For me it was opposite -- I would have happily read the whole book if it were only about OASIS and there was no plot at all. Why don't we have something so amazing in RL? Many people in the book rarely leave the game, other than to sleep and eat. People can and do have jobs in OASIS -- salespeople would never have to fly to visit companies, kids from around the world could attend the same school, etc.

Which leads to what made me sad about the book. OASIS sounded so great, I'd happily live and work in it. You could have anything as your avatar, any human, elf, vampire, werewolf, or something you make up yourself. One PoC woman used a white male human avatar, because it helped her do better business as a salesperson. Read a book, saw a movie, played a game you loved? You could live on a planet set in that theme! You can meet anyone from around the world, can go anywhere, have super powers or super tech. How does the real world compare to that?

As the book closes, repeatedly we were told that the real world is better than OASIS, that people should choose RL over it. An understandable moral, but it makes me feel bad and wrong because I'd still pick OASIS over it. It's not even a hard decision -- be in a place where I can be anything, do anything, go to any of thousands of worlds, or work my boring job and come home to the same boring apartment day after day? What if I could do my job and then go to Narnia? Pandora (from Avatar)? A "real" video game?

Anyway, I'm getting off the track. Wonderful book, great for geeks, anyone who remembers the 80s, gamers, or people who just like a fun adventure story. Highly recommended!