Saturday, January 12, 2013

An Egg Hunt Like No Other

The year 2040 – a global energy crisis has left the majority of the population in abject poverty.  The only solace for most is OASIS, a massive virtual, online world where people can be anyone or go anywhere.  It’s an escape from the harsh realities of modern life. 

The announcement of the death of OASIS’ creator, reclusive James Halliday, also reveals that Halliday will leave his multibillion dollar fortune to the one who can find his Easter Egg (an intentional hidden message, inside joke, or feature in a work such as a computer program, web page, or video game) buried somewhere in the depths of OASIS.  The only way to uncover Halliday’s egg is to solve the riddles he left behind.
It is the nature of the riddles which makes the novel stand out.  Halliday (undoubtedly a stand-in for author Ernest Cline, himself, in terms of interests and pursuits) has a preoccupation with 1980s pop culture.  Every step of the hunt requires intimate knowledge of classic arcade games, John Hughes films, Rush, Dungeons & Dragons, and more.  This has caused a resurgence of the 80s as everyone delves headlong into acid-wash jeans and reruns of Family Ties in hopes of shedding some light on Halliday’s complex clues. 

Five years pass and no one has even come close to solving Halliday’s riddle.  The hunt has become something of a laughingstock in the media and egg hunters (now called “gunters”) have either joined one of the main alliances or keep mainly to themselves.  It’s an 18 year old gunter, Wade Watts (user name Parzival) who changes the hunt in an instant when he solves the first puzzle.  He and his friends, Art3mis and Aech are on their way to finding the egg, but they have to stay one step ahead of Innovative Online Industries, a corporation that wants to win in order to take control of OASIS and will stop at nothing (think: murder) in order to do so. 

Cline obviously recognizes the increased popularity of 80s and 90s nostalgia that grips the denizens of the internet.  He capitalizes on this by littering his novel with an endless stream of film, television, and video game references.  Half of the fun comes from seeing just how many you can identify.  However, because of his reliance on simple name recognition, a passing familiarity with the last two decades worth of pop culture is essential.  Without it, you could easily find yourself drowning in the mile-a-minute pace.  

Geek Chic is “in” and Ready Player One is the perfect book for anyone who follows the Tweets of Will Wheaton and George Takei, watches Felicia Day in The Guild, considers themselves a Browncoat, has yelled “The cake is a lie,” or spends an inordinate amount of time wondering if there will be a second season of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  It’s also an excellent book for anyone looking for a fast-paced read that grabs you from the first chapter and doesn’t let go until the epic conclusion.

Possible readalikes: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, and You Couldn't Ignore me if You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and their Impact on a Generation by Susannah Gora

~Meredith T.


  1. This was seriously my favorite book of my 2012 reading year! I convinced my tech/geek husband to read it and he loved it just as much! Perfect for a child of the 80's and a really great story! Hope he's working on something now!

  2. Thanks...this interesting review is throws further light on geek culture by relating the subject matter to Will Wheaton, George Takei and Felicia Day. Enlightening.