Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a pretty fun novel, but it’s obvious the amount of enjoyment one can glean from reading this is directly proportional to a reader’s knowledge of and love for 80’s music, movies and video games. The story is set in the 2040’s, and the 80’s are back in a very big way. But that’s not just due to the cyclical nature of trends and fads. That’s entirely due to the actions of one man, or rather, by the death of one man, James Halliday. While alive, he was one of if not the richest men in this dystopian future society. He was the inventor of OASIS, a kind of virtual reality, video game Universe world layered on top of the Internet, comparable to today’s World of Warcraft or Second Life but dialed all the way up to eleven and much more crucial to the functioning of businesses and economies. (For other similar virtual reality constructs in fiction, you can think of The Matrix or Snow Crash’s Metaverse or Summer Wars’ OZ.) OASIS isn’t particularly original as a fictional virtual reality world but it is more conducive to action sequences compared with the others.
Halliday grew up during the 80s as what might now be termed a geek and he’s decided to use his vast financial resources to get the rest of society to pay its tribute to his favorite decade. After his death, a pre-recorded message from Halliday is announced to the whole of OASIS. Somewhere in its millions of planets, he’s hidden three keys for use on three secret gates and the person to open all three gates gets Halliday’s Easter Egg, which equates in the real world to all of Halliday’s money and control of his billion dollar corporation. The way to find these keys and eggs involve solving puzzles that require an astounding amount of knowledge about the movies, shows, music and games of Halliday’s childhood.
So, the question is, if a reader isn’t too big on the 80s or isn’t at all that interested with some of the obscure references the novel gives out, would the book still be interesting? The answer is yes. It has other elements of interesting fiction going for it. But reading the book and “getting” the references is still going to be the optimal experience.
Staring at the app’s play button as I waited for the dials to hit red, I thought to myself that now was the time for the Universe to do something, anything if it wanted to stop us from doing what we were about to do. A lightning bolt, if God wanted to be all Zeus-style here would be more than sufficient. We were on the rooftop, after all, and practically standing on top of one big puddle. The three of us would get fried in a split-second. Forensics would simply find our charred corpses the next day and wonder what these people were doing on a rooftop during tropical depression Rosinda and what the hell all the equipment was for.
Or maybe a heart attack. Lord knows my heart was beating fast enough. I imagined that when the time came for me to play the recording, I’d just keel over and die before I could run the program. Then, a lesson would certainly be learned by Elsa and Aloi, which is please not to fuck with the natural order of things.
But in a short while, the laser was already fully charged. Outside the tent, Aloisius did a thumbs up. “Alright, we’re good for four minutes, ” he told me. “I’m going to hit a beam against the side of that big nimbus cloud and by the time we get feedback, you can start playing the message.”
“So, what do you think’s going to happen?” Elsa asked. She half-startled me as I didn’t see her enter the tent. She had a jacket on but her jeans were soaked and her hair was dripping. Like me, she probably didn’t get a bit of sleep last night. “I mean, would they believe these new commandments? Or do you think there’s going to be a manhunt for us?”
“Are you asking if villagers with torches and pitchforks would eventually get to the mad scientist and his assistants and then tear them apart, piece by piece?” I chuckled.
She smiled. “Yeah, that gory end. Or, you know, a little something I’d like to call a criminal case. Which is what happens when crimes are committed. Such as the one we’re doing now.”
“I don’t think so. I suppose maybe over half the people hearing this would suspect that something was up, but not unless somebody out there knows how to mind-read, nobody would know who or what was really behind it.” I tried to sound as reassuring as I could. The rig was vibrating already, which meant that it was nearly time for us to start.
“Besides, I think we’ve got God on our side.” I told her.
I clicked on the button and the media player began to play the mp3. The audio was routed to the rig which then converted it into a continuous signal embedded into the beam. The beam reached the nimbus clouds and excited billions of water molecules at a key frequency which then produced a chain reaction as the bounced beams affected the other nearby clouds which then sent the same signal to its contiguous clouds. Power was what our rig needed but we were more than prepared and our resident mad scientist Aloisius knew his math. Within ten seconds, above the city of Manila, all the nimbus clouds of sufficient density were effectively converted to audio speakers.
The Lord spoke.