eady Player One is, in a nutshell, a geeky love-affair with the eighties, the era’s games, its movies and media. And just like some of my girlfreinds from that time, I think I remember them more fondly than they actually deserved (no, not you. If you read this and are mad about it, this isn’t about you )
Like the console games of that time – which were simple and fun – this pretty much discribes this book.
So, the setup – Wade is a poor kid (in the future, pretty much everybody is poor) living in stacked trailers in Oklahoma City. For the last five years since the death of the architect of the modern web interface (which turned everything into a first-person game), he’s been working on the puzzle of the ages. See, this fellow who built all this, this eighties nerd who was a huge hanger door to Bill Gates (lousy analogy, I know), died unloved and fabulaously wealthy. Thus, all his billions, even control of the computer network, all that, it all has been incorporated into a puzzle game. Solve it and it’s all yours.
And, of course, our pauper Wade has figured the first step of it out, reasoning through the puzzle and realizing that the first prize is right under his nose.
This starts off a rush as Wade and his best buddy, as well as the girl Wade secretly adores, all go after the gates. In a nice touch, a huge rotten-to-the-core corporation (are there any other types in novels) has devoded an entire operaitonal unit into solving this. With their resources, is there anything they won’t do to win? (non-spoiler answer – nope).
And so it’s a race, one that travels through the games of our childhoods (mine, anyway), brining in Defender, Joust, Adventure (from Atari – God, those ducky dragons take me back) and many others. Seamlessly we travel through movies and TV shows, where reality, at least as defined in this web, is nothing save imagry from America’s so-called golden age (hey, I remember playing Pacman at the bowling alley – didn’t feel like an epoch to me at the time).
And yes, it’s fun, in a nostalgic way. It does get a little geekish after a while with references being thrown out about everything; Firefly, Cowboy Bebop, Zork, Wargames. Really, it’s hard to imagine that Wade and his companions could contain quite that amount of trivia, being dead-on perfect on every line of dialog and every twist of plot in every movie and sitcom from the era. Really, I had to ask myself, where did they get all that time. Sure, I played Defender and Star Raiders, but in all my time playing games, I think I only mastered the latter.
And sadly, I’ll note that my own games I’d written and released in that era, Eagles and Cybertank, neither got a single mention. Pity.
But yes, like the kiddy pool, it’s fun and not very deep, just a crazy mix-n-mash of a glorified era that most of us got over some time back and hardly think about now. But that’s the past – sometimes it means something to certain people.