The Ladies Who Drink Read Ready Player One
This month, the Ladies Who Drink read a book on a subject about which we know next to nothing: video games. But what does reading do if not transport us to unknown places?
Ready Player One, a novel by Ernest Cline, is replete with references to Eighties pop and geek culture. We knew we were missing a lot of the allusions, but what we caught added both to the playfulness and the depth of the read. Ready Player One, which we gave 3.5 to 5 stars, is an adventure story above all else and full of excitement and suspense. It is set in 2044, and environmental destruction has depleted the earth’s resources and made life almost unbearable. As life on earth was falling apart, a programming genius named Halliday invented a virtual reality called Oasis in which almost all humans now live, work, and play. Before he died, Halliday hid the rights to his vast fortune within the game. He created three keys and three gates, and the last leads to his billions. A 19-year-old boy named Wade with a less-than-ideal life is the first person to discover the copper key, which propels him into an intense race to complete the quest before an evil corporation or other “egg hunters” do.
Besides being entertaining, the book hints at a lot of very interesting questions about the nature of reality—physical versus virtual realities and the reality of the past versus our memories of it. Some of us thought that the author could have explored these issues a little more deeply. For instance, how did it really affect the people in that society to live almost entirely online? Were they prisoners of their own making, or did someone or something entrap them within this virtual world? Or contrarily, is a virtual reality stigmatized but in fact no worse than the “real” world? Along those lines, we did like that the author wasn’t heavy handed with his criticisms of Oasis and actually pointed out some positives of it.
Here is one of my favorite paragraphs from the book, which takes place as Wade is walking through a recreation of Halliday’s childhood home within Oasis: “Looking around, I wondered why Halliday, who always claimed to have had a miserable childhood, had later become so nostalgic for it. I knew that if and when I finally escaped from the stacks, I’d never look back. And I definitely wouldn’t create a detailed simulation of the place.” I liked this because it reminded me of the nostalgia the book has for the Eighties and gets at that weird disconnect between the reality of the past and our memories of it and how we can never relive the reality of the past. As book clubber Coco pointed out, this paragraph also explores how a physical world differs from a virtual reality. A virtual world, like a dream or a memory, is better than the real thing in a lot of ways because we have more control over it and we can make it what we want it to be, but, maybe contradictorily, you can’t affect a lot of change on a fake world.
Now, for the cocktail we paired with the book…. I was inclined to go with Link’s Medicine of Magic (Green Potion), but the other ladies vetoed it. Instead, we chose the Purple Haze, not only because it brings to mind thick, ugly smog but also because it’s a hallmark cocktail from the Eighties. To add to the ambiance, we listened to music from the book’s official playlist, which Annette found on the author’s website.
Books, friends, cocktails, and music…. It’s just like the A-Team’s “Hannibal” always said, “I love it when a [night] comes together.”