Our online reading of near-future science fiction continues, as we work through Ernst Cline’s Ready Player One (previous posts). With the post I’m 60% of the way along my reread.
As before I’ll offer a short plot sketch, some observations about the world, and lit prof notes.
Quick plot update: the quest for Halliday’s Easter egg continues. The narrator solves the first puzzle ever won in the game. More “gunters” then succeed in cracking parts of the mystery. Our hero meets and angers the villainous Sixers online, who nearly kill him in real life. Wade falls hard for Art5mis, who initially responds, then spurns him. There are epic feats of 1980s nerdery.
Wade leaves school and his childhood home for Columbus, Ohio, there to seek the grail at all costs.
The world of Ready Player One gets fleshed out in even deeper dystopian detail. As Wade leaves Oklahoma City we learn that “lawless badlands now exist… outside of the safety of large cities”. Wade travels between them in an armored bus across “the deteriorating interstate highway system.” (Kindle location 2937) “[T]he view was perpetually bleak, and each decaying, overcrowded city we rolled through looked just like the last.” (2960) Even in those cities he works with elaborate security measures, including an uber-armored door on his new apartment (3387).
The diseases we heard about in earlier chapters recur here with a sound of plague:
Parzival: You got parents?
Art5mis: They died. The flu. So i was raised by my grandparents. You got parentage?
Parzival: No. Mine are dead too.
Art5mis: It kinds sucks, doesn’t it? Not having your parents around.
Parzival: Yeah. But a lot of people are worse off than me. (3073)
It’s “the flu”, not “a flu” – i.e., a known and formidable specter. Note, too, Parzival’s closing observation. Things are worse for a lot of people.
Politics is useless. “It didn’t matter who was in charge. Those people were rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and everyone knew it.” Worse, there’s an echo of Idiocracy (2006): “the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.” (3560) Yes, laugh it up, 2016.
We learn that Ogden Morrow, Halliday’s other half, like Wozniak to Jobs, had criticized OASIS as a pointless escape from reality (2147). Unsurprising for a guy who echoes Einstein and Santa Claus, the book seems to agree with him, observing that people no longer “physically travel… for business and pleasure” (2954) (see also 3531).
On technological politics: user behavior in OASIS is apparently uncontrolled (“There are no laws in the OASIS”, 2751). In contrast, the villains want to add “[a]vatar content filters [and] stricter construction guidelines. We’re going to make OASIS a better place” (2492). This opposition feels very 1990s, and far removed from 2016’s debates about abuse online. Put it this way: do many people see Twitter today as too like OASIS? Continue reading