The not so distant future is one of our Book Club’s favorite time frames. Just far away enough to incite images of a futuristic world, but not so far that it’s completely foreign to the culture we live in now. Our latest book club read, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, was smack dab in the middle of such a place. Right from the start of our discussion, we all agreed that it seems entirely possible that we could wind up in Cline’s world where an online utopia dominates people’s lives who use it to escape the harsh state the world has come to.
Filled with 80’s nostalgia and trivia, our book club might have just been the perfect audience for this read. Some of us grew up playing the exact videos games mentioned and could recall our own experiences discovering hidden easter eggs. Others are simply huge fans of the movies and pop culture of that time–Blade Runner anyone?
Going back and forth between reality and the virtual world in the game called OASIS, the tone of the story goes back and forth from disturbing and gloomy to exciting and imaginative. Parzival, or Wade as he’s known outside of the OASIS, recounts the story of the Hunt–the OASIS-wide search for its creator’s, James Halliday’s, fortune. Boiling over into the real world, the Hunt begins to become a classic war between good and evil. While many of us loved the standard roles, others felt the evil corporation, the Sixers, were just a little too easy to hate.
What our conversation strayed to for some time was, unsurprisingly, the education system that was set up in the book. It was interesting to see the virtual schools that were created inside in the OASIS and how typical school day blunders were dealt with–muting students who called out, rendering students unable to get out of their seats. With the outside world in shambles, it was intriguing as to how much discussion was put into how the school system was handled. With Parzival being just a teenager and experiencing it first hand, the education system got more attention than one might expect in a book about video games. From educational videos that Parzival grew up with, to learning that Halliday mandated the OASIS education system be available free to any student, it was quite thought out.
However, stemming from the virtual schools, we did end up questioning the likelihood of Parzival’s confidence after turning off the OASIS. For over a year he spent little time, if any, with another human being. Locked away in his apartment he didn’t even need to answer the door, computers handled it all. Having adjusted to a lifestyle such as thing, many of us found his interactions with his friends at the end unlikely. Confidence in the OASIS is one thing, but confidence standing right in front of the girl of your dreams? Now that takes a bit more guts.
One major point that sparked conversation was the ending of the book. A few of us felt that the final words of Halliday contradicted the entire story and that the advice he leaves Parzival with is against the whole spirit of the hunt. Would Halliday really set into action a worldwide virtual easter egg hunt if his final thoughts in life were realizing it’s truly real world interactions that are important?
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
And don’t forget to read along this month! For our next pick, we took a turn down the non-fiction isle and will be reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. While her name was Henrietta Lacks, scientists mainly know her as HeLa. Doctors took her cells without asking which then launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry.