Microsoft and Apple stand as legacy from the early days of computing as stalwart software and hardware companies, but what if there was a third bastion? Gregarious Simulation Systems is a billionaire gaming company that, although dating back to the 1980s, has only one major hit. OASIS.

“I watched a lot of YouTube videos of cute geeky girls playing ’80s cover tunes on ukuleles. Technically, this wasn’t part of my research, but I had a serious cute-geeky-girls-playing-ukuleles fetish that I can neither explain nor defend.”

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It’s this 3D, fully-immersive, and anonymous online environment in which most of the book takes place. So that’s the setting. The plot is a massive hunt for virtual buried treasure: the last will and testament left hidden in OASIS by GSS’s co-founder before he died. But none of that is why you should read Ready Player One.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

Between geeky references, this book has messages about corporate greed, hunger, poverty, friendship, and love. Oh wait, I said geeky references.

Well, on planet Neonoir there’s R2-D2 the D.J.  In the school parking lot there are Space Shuttles, Vipers, and other spacecraft. Our lead character, Wade, drives a DeLorean (it can’t time travel, but it can go through walls). He also lives in apartment 4211. The first boss in the first dungeon is beat by playing Joust. Wade keeps a grail diary filled with Zork notes. Pacman, Blade Runner, Star Wars, Firefly, plus hundreds of movies, music, and video games from 1980s culture are mentioned.

If all the geeky references aren’t enough, here’s an Inception-like breakdown: Ready Player One is a book, where the main character spends most of his waking hours in a 3D virtual reality called OASIS. Inside OASIS he’s on a virtual treasure hunt for what’s referred to as an Easter Egg, requiring him to play video games and immerse himself in virtual worlds.

Rating (4 stars)

If this was just a book about geeky 1980s stuff, however, it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting as it is. Ready Player One is also a gripping novel, but it doesn’t have any particular plot twists. Wade (spoiler alert) gets the girl, wins the prize, and saves the world (presumably).

Nevertheless it reads well and, like Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code it’s less about what happens and more about how it happens. Which, perhaps coincidentally, is not unlike today’s modern video games.