Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
First off, let me start by saying WOW! This book, which is a quick 374 page read, is a fantastic journey down memory lane. For me the pages simply flew by more than any other book I have read in recent years. I am sure much of it has to do with it book referencing most thing 80’s. Things I personally connect with.
Being born in 1969, I was 11 in 1980 and would turn 21 in 1990 so I did all my growing up during this time period. Every time a video game, RPG, band, book, comic, tv show or movie was mentioned I was immediately rushed back to a time and place far removed from the one I live in now. It was like magic. Simply a wonderful blast from the past and stroll down memory lane.
Initially this was going post was going to discuss more of the finer parts of the book but then as I started writing it became more a moment of reflection. Growing up in the 80’s had not been easy but there were so many distractions that it was hard NOT to get sucked up into some part of it, I mean, there were some many distractions that could and did draw you in. As I was reading and came across something mentioned in the story that I personally remembered having experienced, I would be instantly transported back to when I experienced those things. No other book has been able to capture so many of those elements like this book.
The 80’s were a time of growth and discovery in so many different areas. Pop culture never had it so good. A glutton of new and crazy ideas made manifest for our senses were all being displayed for consumption and we all cozied up to the all you can eat buffet. Music which had an explosion in the 60’s was still going strong but things had mellowed and now synthesized music was starting to enter the fray, shortly to be followed by hair and metal bands…and Michael Jackson. Yes MJ was already a permanent fixture but his solo career was about to take off in a huge way and would set him apart from the rest of the world for decades to come. But I digress.
It now seemed that cartoons were making a huge impact on television as more and more households could afford them and kids were spending more time in front of them. I remember all things by Hanna Barbera (The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera), He-Man, She-Ra, Thundercats, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs, Babu & Jeannie, The New Adventures of Johnny Quest, Captain Caveman, Groovy Goolies, Blue Falcon & Dynomutt, The Hairbear Bunch, Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, The Grape Ape (Show), Jabber Jaws, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (not a cartoon but what the hey, I watched it all the same. The Super Friends, Speed Buggy, Here come the Littles and who can forget School House Rock!? The Land of the Lost.Far Out Space Nuts, Electra Woman and DynaGirl (I am sure this was something to compete with Batman and Robin), and Honk Kong Phooey. The list goes on and on. You get the idea. I did have fun looking up these titles though.
Comics had always been around but saw some explosive growth during the 80’s and 90’s with a few small companies creating some characters that gained traction that could compete with the big 2 (DC & Marvel). RPG’s (Role Playing Games) although technically had been around since the 70’s and likely before that called something else but saw mainstream growth in the 80’s. I remember buying the Monster Manual, Deities & Demigods, and a small off-white box containing 5-8 smaller booklets of gaming material at a garage sale for a few bucks. I was drawn to the fantastic cover art of the Monster Manual. I was very much into drawing and seeing the centaur on the cover just drew me in. It would be a few more years before I actually played but this was my first initiation into the world of gaming that I still enjoy today.Eventually I had come to buy more than 160 modules and purchased just about every hardcover that came out as well as all the softcover stuff during the 2-2.5 expansion of D&D. I ended up selling almost all that stuff as I was just hanging on to it for nostalgia sake as well as being part collector and hoarder. I did have to grow up and move on sometime didn’t I? That and I have a tiny house and never played with this stiff anymore. Eventually we (the group of peeps I play with to this day) played through 3, 3.5 and are currently on 4th edition.
Along with the console based games which I only participated in with an Intellivision were arcade games. I eventually (and my brother) had worked for a time at a nickel arcade (The Avalon Theatre) during the early 90’s. Here we got to see first hand all manner of games come through the doors. Pac-Man, Donkey-Kong, Defender, Galaxian and Galaga, Dig-Dug, Space Invaders and Centipede were all games that had seen there prime but were still actively played. Now player .vs. player games like Street Fighter were all the rage. One of my favorites games was Marble Madness – anyone else?
Now we get to the movies element of the book; they referenced so many of the movies I saw first hand in the theaters it was pretty ridiculous: Lady Hawk, War Games, Explorers and Blade Runner (although I didn’t see this until later) were films I really enjoyed and were a part of my history, my truth. It was like the author had seen right into the heart of this geek-in-training and said “Oh, you like this, this and this – great, me too!” and wrote about it in a way that took me back to a time in my life that was awesome in retrospect. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have to deal with abuse or one of the many terrible things a lot of kids did that I needed to escape from but I didn’t appreciate the 80’s until I was out of them. As much as I enjoyed them (now) it was not until later in life that I could truly appreciate what they offered me; a way to express myself and feel connected with something other than music which liked but not nearly so much as I do now.
Another thing that resonated with me; the blatant escapism that played such a dominant role in the book. It got a little too close to home. But what the hell, we were kids and that is what kids do, they play games and listen to music and read books and comics and wear crazy cloths that piss off their parent and pretty much any authority figure that took more than a second to read the snarky comment that was likely displayed on their t-shirt. I imagine things haven’t changed really all that much. Technology is way better and faster or more everything really. Although some small part of me really gets nostalgic for those old times when computers displayed in one color and music was still listened to on vinyl records and cassettes. This was also during the time CDs were just coming out and 8-tracks were just going away.
If you get a chance, even if you weren’t growing up during this time period but have a fondness or yearning for something that kind of hits the nail on the head for recreating some ultra-geek-nerd-fanboy-lost soul type of thing then this book is for you.
I truly enjoyed it. I think you will too.
Peace be with you!
More to come…