New Release: Ready Player One

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline is another book I’ve gotten in for review.  It’s fresh on the shelves today, and it looks pretty exciting.  From the blurb, it sounds like a really cool concept.  He’s taken a future world and given them a virtual reality world where they can immerse themselves, ala Snow Crash.  It’s right up my alley.  Like The Last Four Things, I got my hands on an excerpt for you all to enjoy.  Or, you can just go buy the kindle version of the book and start reading it on your kindle, now.

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Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest. I was sitting in my hideout watching cartoons when the news bulletin broke in on my videofeed, announcing that James Halliday had died during the night.

I’d heard of Halliday, of course. Everyone had. He was the video game designer responsible for creating the OASIS, a massively multiplayer on-line game that had gradually evolved into the globally networked virtual reality most of humanity now used on a daily basis. The unprecedented success of the OASIS had made Halliday one of the wealthiest people in the world.

At first, I couldn’t understand why the media was making such a big deal of the billionaire’s death. After all, the people of Planet Earth had other concerns. The ongoing energy crisis. Catastrophic climate change. Widespread famine, poverty, and disease. Half a dozen wars. You know: “dogs and cats living together . . . mass hysteria!” Normally, the news-feeds didn’t interrupt everyone’s interactive sitcoms and soap operas un-less something really major had happened. Like the outbreak of some new killer virus, or another major city vanishing in a mushroom cloud. Big stuff like that. As famous as he was, Halliday’s death should have war-ranted only a brief segment on the evening news, so the unwashed masses could shake their heads in envy when the newscasters announced the obscenely large amount of money that would be doled out to the rich man’s heirs.

But that was the rub. James Halliday had no heirs.

He had died a sixty-seven-year-old bachelor, with no living relatives and, by most accounts, without a single friend. He’d spent the last fifteen years of his life in self-imposed isolation, during which time—if the rumors were to be believed—he’d gone completely insane. So the real jaw-dropping news that January morning, the news that had everyone from Toronto to Tokyo crapping in their cornflakes, concerned the contents of Halliday’s last will and testament, and the fate of his vast fortune.

Halliday had prepared a short video message, along with instructions that it be released to the world media at the time of his death. He’d also arranged to have a copy of the video e-mailed to every single OASIS user that same morning. I still remember hearing the familiar electronic chime when it arrived in my inbox, just a few seconds after I saw that first news bulletin.

His video message was actually a meticulously constructed short film titled Anorak’s Invitation. A famous eccentric, Halliday had harbored a lifelong obsession with the 1980s, the decade during which he’d been a teenager, and  Anorak’s Invitation was crammed with obscure ’80s pop culture references, nearly all of which were lost on me the first time I viewed it.

The entire video was just over five minutes in length, and in the days and weeks that followed, it would become the most scrutinized piece of film in history, surpassing even the Zapruder film in the amount of painstaking frame-by-frame analysis devoted to it. My entire generation would come to know every second of Halliday’s message by heart.

I’m always up for some techno-fiction!

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