Ready Player One (novel)

From Clockworks2
Jump to navigationJump to search

Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. New York: Random House, 2011.

"The story, set in a dystopian 2044" — continuing energy crisis, resource depletion, environmental degradation, severe inequality and poverty — as the Wikipedia entry summarizes, "follows protagonist Wade Watts on his search for an Easter egg in a worldwide virtual reality game, the discovery of which will lead him" and a small group of friends "to inherit the game creator's fortune."[1] Note the antagonist(s) as a huge, nasty corporation; cf. and contrast When the Sleeper Wakes and later works with heroes opposed to a hypertrophic Capitalism. Significant here for its cyberpunk similarities — dystopian real life/"eutopian" possibilities in a VR gamerspace — and for its definitely early 21st-century premise in a "Massively multiplayer online role-playing game" in that Virtual Reality, with important real-world implications, including fiscal (its currency is stable and has real-world value [a nice illustration of the paradoxical idea in economics that ordinarily the value of money is literally fictional]).[2]

The novel is clearly and self-consciously a secularized Grail Quest story, with Wade Watts's avartar named "Parzival" (sic), the original Grail Knight.[3] — with the Romance mode moving into Romantic Comedy at the hopeful end. Given that overall form, it is significant that the story begins with Wade Watts doing a decorous young-atheist critique of pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die religious beliefs before telling us about the OASIS as the virtual-reality eutopia — with Watts examining more deeply than either Carl Sagan's 1980 Cosmos[4] or Neil deGrasse Tyson's 2014 version[5] the diminution of emphatically mortal human significance in a universe of "billions upon billions of stars" and galaxies.[6] A bird in T. S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton" (1935) tells us, "human kind / Cannot bear very much reality,"[7] and however much Ready Player One in its conclusion dutifully endorses dedication to "the real world" and "real life," the overall effect suggests that a gamerWorld in VR is way cooler.

CAUTION (1): Even as Neuromancer helps establish a deep texture with product names and a kind of poetry of things, Ready Player One establishes the world of the Quest largely through references to the popular culture of the West in the 1980s — many, many, some-quite-esoteric references. Indeed, if the protagonist isn't exaggerating too extravagantly, he has spent enough time researching the 1980s to pretty much rule out his doing much of anything else. This might be reassuring for CAUTION (2): If you suspect the young person answering your requests for technical assistance holds you in contempt for your ignorance, laziness, and incompetence, some of Wade Watts's comments will reinforce the suspicion.

RPO was made into a movie in 2018.

RDE, Initial Compiler, 3Ap18, 14May18