It is the year 2044 and climate change, limited physical resources and The Great Recession has rendered life on earth virtually unbearable. To escape the misery, the majority of humans ignore the fact that they are living in vertically stacked trailer parks and spend their waking hours in the OASIS, a massive multiplayer online simulation where the sky’s the limit (think of OASIS as Facebook meets World of Warcraft meets the Matrix without all the mean AI robots). In the OASIS, people go to school, build and explore virtual worlds, experience space flight, play video games, listen to music, hang out with friends … in fact in the OASIS people can do pretty much anything they want, given that they have enough “credits”.
OASIS was created by an eccentric, socially awkward programmer named James Halliday (whose character is a mashup of Steve Jobs and Howard Hughes with a lesser known eccentric programmer, Richard Garriott thrown in), whom died five years before the story takes place. After his death a video will is release to those in OASIS along with a book that was dubbed Anorak’s Almanac, which purports to be a journal written by James Halliday’s on his passions and obsessions. The video says that whoever can collect three keys (Copper, Jade, and Crystal) that are hidden throughout the OASIS and pass through the matching gates will receive his fortune and controlling stake in Halliday’s company. This becomes known as the Hunt and people immediately begin the search for Halliday’s Easter Egg. Those searching for the Egg are referred to as “gunters,” a truncation of “egg hunters.” Gunters devote an enormous amount of time to studying 1980s pop culture, the decade Halliday grew up in and was perpetually obsessed with, in the hope it will assist them with locating and solving the puzzles involved with the Egg.
When we are introduced to the novel’s protagonist, Wade Watts (an allusion to the Marvel superhero, Deadpool), it is five years after this announcement of the hunt. A lonely Oklahoman teen, Wade goes by the name of Parzival (a reference to a Arthurian Poem from Germany) in the OASIS. Obsessed with cracking Halliday’s puzzle Wade spends the majority of his free time studying Halliday’s passions for all things ‘80s, from Galaga to Rush to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.
His journey spans the length and breadth of the OASIS, taking the you on a magical mystery tour to distant planets that are influenced by everything from Blade Runner to Back to the Future. Along the way he finds friendship, love, and the ultimate enemy in the shape of Innovative Online Industries, a powerful corporation who will stop at nothing to win the contest and turn the OASIS into a purely commercial destination.
Will Wade find the keys before the evil corporation? To find out stop by the library’s fiction shelves and grab a copy of Ready Player One. You can also continue reading after the jump for ways to watch the music, play the video games, and listen to the music referenced (or easter egged in the book).