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.

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