Cover to the first printing
|Genre||Hard science fiction and dystopian|
|August 16, 2011|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
Ready Player One is a 2011 dystopian science-fiction novel, and the debut novel by Ernest Cline. In 2012, the book received an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association division of the American Library Association and won the 2012 Prometheus Award.
Cline sold the novel in June 2010, in a bidding war to the Crown Publishing Group (a division of Random House). The book was published on August 16, 2011. An audiobook was released the same day; it was narrated by Wil Wheaton, who was mentioned briefly in one of the chapters.Ch. 20
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.
Teenager Wade Watts lives with his aunt in the "stacks," a poverty-stricken district constructed of trailer homes piled on top of each other. He spends all his spare time logged on to the OASIS as a "gunter" (a contraction of "egg hunter"), an avatar under the moniker Parzival, reading Halliday's journal Anorak's Almanac and researching films, songs, and TV series from the 1980s mentioned therein, as well as playing classic video games. One day, he realizes during a fit of boredom that the location of the first key is on the world of his online high school, in a re-creation of the Dungeons and Dragons module Tomb of Horrors. When he finds the Tomb and defeats its adversary Acererak in the video game Joust, he is awarded the Copper Key, and Parzival's name appears on the "Scoreboard", attracting the entire world's attention, including Art3mis, a popular female gunter and blogger (and the first player to reach the Tomb).
Parzival completes the Copper Gate puzzles by playing through the Dungeons of Daggorath video game, and then role-playing Matthew Broderick's character in the film WarGames. Art3mis clears the gate shortly afterwards, as does his friend Aech. His fame enables him to make a living by endorsing virtual products. Nolan Sorrento, head of operations at Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a multinational corporation bent on taking control of the OASIS and monetizing it, attempts to recruit Wade to assist them in finding the egg, only to be swiftly denied. In retaliation, Sorrento attempts to kill Wade by blowing up the stacks under the guise of a meth lab explosion; he barely escapes death, but his aunt is caught in the blast.
Wade lays low, taking up the persona Bryce Lynch and a residence near IOI headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. He briefly considers an alliance with Aech, Art3mis, and two Japanese gunters, Daito and Shoto, who have also figured out the puzzles. Instead, he and Art3mis progress in a friendship, but when he asks her out, Art3mis declines. IOI operatives called Sixers attempt to assassinate the two at the birthday party of OASIS co-founder Ogden Morrow, but are unsuccessful. Five months after the finding of the Copper Key, no one has made progress on the next clue, the Jade Key, during which Wade finds himself more isolated from both Art3mis and Aech.
When Art3mis finds the Jade Key, Wade/Parzival scrambles to planet Archaide, where he plays a perfect game of Pac-Man, only to receive an ordinary quarter as a prize; he leaves the arcade cabinet feeling like he has wasted valuable time. Aech provides a hint leading him to the planet Frobozz where he solves the text adventure game Zork. Sorrento, who had tracked Art3mis and Aech using a premium locator item, quickly establishes a base there to farm their company's avatars with keys, and soon unlocks the Jade Gate and acquires the Crystal Key. Shoto tells Parzival that the Sixers infiltrated Daito's real-life apartment and threw him out of the building, killing him.
Parzival unlocks the Jade Gate, a Voight-Kampff machine in the Blade Runner universe, and completes the arcade game Black Tiger as a character from the first-person shooter perspective. Using his knowledge of Rush, and playing "Discovery", the third track off of their album 2112, he acquires the Crystal Key, but discovers a clue that Sorrento overlooked regarding the conditions to unlock the final gate. As he messages Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto with his solution, Sorrento publicizes the location of the Crystal Gate at Castle Anorak, but that he has an impenetrable force field around it.
In an elaborate plan to infiltrate IOI, Wade engineers his assumed identity's credit default and is arrested and placed in indentured servitude in tech support. While inside IOI, he uses black market passwords and security exploits to hack into IOI's intranet where he acquires a wealth of information including footage of Daito's murder and the attempt on his own life, as well as plans to kill Shoto and Art3mis in real life. After escaping the corporation, he shares his information with his friends, and publicizes a gathering of avatars to storm the castle. They are interrupted by Ogden, who offers them a safe haven at his home in Oregon. Wade meets the real-life Aech and Ogden, but not Art3mis and Shoto, who are already hooked into Ogden's immersion pods.
The day of the battle, Wade uses his planted hack to bring down the barricade, and a massive fight among avatars ensues. Just as Parzival and friends unlock the gate, the Sixers use an artifact called the Cataclyst to destroy the castle and all the avatars. Parzival survives from having an extra life (granted by the quarter from Pac-Man), and declares he will share his fortune with his friends as he enters the Crystal Gate. With Sorrento and his Sixers on his heels, Parzival plays Tempest, role-plays various major characters in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and finally retrieves the Easter egg in Adventure. His victory grants him control of the OASIS, including wiping out his enemies' avatars, resurrecting his friends, and a Big Red Button that would wipe OASIS once and for all. Sorrento is arrested for the murder of Daito and for conspiring to kill Wade and the others. Back in Oregon, Wade and Art3mis finally meet in person and rekindle their relationship with a kiss.
Ready Player One was a New York Times bestseller. It was praised by such publications as Entertainment Weekly, The Boston Globe, The A.V. Club, CNN.com, io9, and Boing Boing, to name a few. USA Today wrote that the novel "undoubtedly qualifies Cline as the hottest geek on the planet right now." NPR said that the book was "ridiculously fun and large-hearted". Cline "takes a far-out premise and engages the reader instantly" with a "deeply felt narrative [that] makes it almost impossible to stop turning the pages." Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that "The book gets off to a witty start" but noted that it lacks at least one dimension, stating that gaming had overwhelmed everything else about this book. Rebecca Serle of The Huffington Post described the book as "the grown-up's Harry Potter" and that it "has it all – nostalgia, trivia, adventure, romance, heart and, dare I say it, some very fascinating social commentary. "
The book has been translated in over 20 languages.
In an interview with Fortune, Cline said that his book had inspired designers at companies such as Oculus VR which recommended the book for their new employees. Oculus has also invited Cline several times to sign books and demo hardware.
Ten months after the first edition release, Cline revealed on his blog that Ready Player One itself contained an elaborately hidden easter egg. This clue would form the first part of a series of staged video gaming tests, similar to the plot of the novel. Cline also revealed that the competition's grand prize would be a DeLorean. The game Ultimate Collector: Garage Sale by Austin-based developer Portalarium was featured in one part of the contest. The final stage of the contest was announced on August 1, 2012, and was to set a world record on one of several classic arcade or Atari 2600 games. This was completed on August 9, 2012 by Craig Queen, who set a new world record in Joust. He was awarded the DeLorean on the TV show X-Play.
The film rights were purchased by Warner Bros. on the same day Cline finalized his publishing deal with Random House, one year prior to the novel's publication. Dan Farah brought the project into the studio and is producing it with Donald De Line. Cline adapted his novel into a screenplay. Over the years, Eric Eason and Zak Penn assisted Cline with rewrites.
Steven Spielberg signed on to direct in March 2015. Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger of Amblin Partners also joined Deline and Farah as producers. Warner Bros. initially announced a release date of December 15, 2017. On February 9, 2016, the release date was pushed back to March 30, 2018, to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The movie began production in the spring of 2016 and is being filmed in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
On September 1, 2015, TheWrap reported that Olivia Cooke, Elle Fanning and Lola Kirke were on the shortlist for the role of Art3mis, along with two unnamed actresses, and Justin Kroll tweeted that Nick Robinson was an early favorite of Spielberg for Parzival. On September 11, 2015, it was reported that Cooke was cast as Samantha. On January 6, 2016, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Ben Mendelsohn was in talks to play Nolan Sorrento. In early 2016, the movie launched a worldwide casting call for the roles of Wade Watts, Daito, and Shoto in the project. On February 24, 2016, Deadline reported that Tye Sheridan was cast as Wade in the film. On March 17, 2016, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Simon Pegg was in negotiations for the role of OASIS co-creator Ogden Morrow, better known by his OASIS avatar: the Great and Powerful Og. April 13, 2016, Variety reported that Mark Rylance has joined the cast as OASIS creator James Donovan Halliday. On June 1, 2016, The Hollywood Reporter reported that T.J. Miller has joined the cast to play an unnamed role. Originally, rumors had started to spread that he would be taking on the role of an annoying online Internet troll named i-R0k, but he will instead be taking on an unnamed role. A description of the character has been revealed as "a bounty hunter with an amusing personality." On June 5, 2016, Variety reported that Japanese singer-actor Win Morisaki is cast as Toshiro Yoshiaki, also known as Daito.
Screenwriter Zak Penn tweeted on July 1, 2016 that the first week of filming was completed.
Lacero, a fan-fiction story by Andy Weir, was published in the 2016 edition of Ready Player One. It follows the story of Nolan Sorrento and functions as a precursor to the main novel, and was considered canonical to the Ready Player One fictional universe.
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