Saturday, October 28, 2017

Journey into Virtual Reality

Ready Player One 

Ready Player One
“If I was feeling depressed or frustrated about my lot in life, all I had to do was tap the Player One button, and my worries would instantly slip away as my mind focused itself on the relentless pixelated onslaught on the screen in front of me. There, inside the game's two-dimensional universe, life was simple: It's just you against the machine. Move with your left hand, shoot with your right, and try to stay alive as long as possible.”   ― Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

Do you like contests? 
Do you like MMORPGs? 
Do you know what an MMORPG is? If you answered yes to the first two of those questions you probably know the answer to the third and you probably will like this book more than I did. Not that I really disliked Ernest Cline's dystopian fantasy, but I just got tired of the online game references and late twentieth century TV trivia.

This book starts out with a bang and the plot moves along at a rapid pace. However it did not move fast enough to overcome its predictability; thus I grew a bit weary after a hundred or so pages. In the year 2044, the world has been gripped by an energy crisis from the depletion of fossil fuels and the consequences of global warming, causing widespread social problems and economic stagnation. To escape the decline their world is facing, people turn to the OASIS,[a] a virtual reality simulator accessible by players using visors and haptic technology such as gloves. It functions both as an MMORPG and as a virtual society, with its currency being the most stable in the real world. It was created by James Halliday who, when he died, had announced in his will to the public that he had left an Easter egg inside OASIS, and the first person to find it would inherit his entire fortune and the corporation.

The story follows the adventures of Wade Watts, starting about five years after the announcement, when he discovers one of the three keys pointing to the treasure. The Huffington Post referred to it as "Delightful . . . the grown-ups Harry Potter". Well, yes it did remind me of Harry Potter a bit with the protagonist, Wade, whose avatar he named Parzival (yes, after the famed knight of the Grail legend), fleeing from a dysfunctional family to a hidden lair he created as a spot from which he could log-on to go to school; however more importantly to participate in the greatest and most popular video game ever created called OASIS.

The story becomes a postmodern version of the heroic journey with Parzival contending with untold thousands of other individuals for the ultimate prize established by the late creator of OASIS. Of course there is an evil corporation that is out to win the prize by devious and violent (if necessary) means. There are also players with whom Parzival becomes friends, of a sort, and assorted difficult moments, cliff-hangers if you will, as Parzival's journey through OASIS goes on. I have left out the details and will not even hint at the ending. I can only repeat that if you like the MMORPGs and would like to read about adventures in cyberspace this book is for you.


CyberKitten said...

I picked this up recently (coming late to the party as usual) and am *really* looking forward to the movie next year. Oh, and yes, I knew what a MMORPG is... [grin] Indeed I play one about 20 hours a week....

Fred said...

That was my experience with Ready Player One. I think I quit reading it before I read 100 pages, though. Although I have played some role-playing games, I'm not really a fan of them. I'd much rather be reading than playing a game.

James said...

CyberKitten and Fred,
I appreciate your reactions to the book and I'm not surprised. My one experience with a sort of single player role playing game was one of boredom as was my reaction to parts of this book. That it received a positive response from someone more experienced in the online gaming world is not unexpected. All in all a good book but not so much for my taste.

Brian Joseph said...

I have had my eye on this book for a while. I think that I would like it.

I stopped playing video games before MMORPGs came out. I have never played one. However, I know that I would love them. I just cannot afford the investment of time that they would require. Perhaps if I was retired it would be different,

James said...

If you liked video games you may like this book. I've got more cyberspace in store with Stephenson's Snow Crash and The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein as the next two selections for our SF Book Group.