Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

  “Continue your quest by taking the test. Yes, but what test? What test was I supposed to take? The Kobayashi Maru? The Pepsi Challenge? Could the clue have been any more vague?

Ready Player One is an 80s geek child’s dream book. If you love Atari, pop culture, 80s movies and music, then you will love the hours of geeking out this book provides. The story opens in the not so distant future where global warming has increased exponentially and the recession has deepened into a depression, making it a bleak and poverty ridden place to exist. Thankfully, there is an alternative, a Virtual Reality world called OASIS created by a very talented game designer named James Halliday. OASIS provides a whole universe where education is free, entertainment abounds, thousands of worlds exist for gamers to explore, quests to beat and even the ability to build and live in homes there. Everyone on earth buys a pair of gloves, a visor and plugs in to this virtual world to ignore the decay and destruction of earth. Halliday, already rich, becomes the richest man on the planet. When Halliday dies, he leaves behind no heirs, so he makes a video which introduces a grand game. The game starts with a riddle, which leads to the first of three keys. Each key will open gates that have challenges the searcher must beat. The entire quest ends in finding an egg which gives the winner Halliday’s entire fortune and control of OASIS.

Since Halliday was an 80s teen and a gamer, all the challenges have to do with 80s music, video games, pop culture or gaming. The world becomes obsessed with that decade and an 80s revival occurs as everyone studies up to find the first key. Years pass, no one find anything, the hunt dies down except for the hardcore egg hunters, ‘gunters’ for short. Here is where our hero comes into the picture. A young man in high school, exceptionally smart (and geeky) living in a trailer park with his abusive aunt in one of the many slums on earth. He has been studying and searching for the first key for five years with the rest of the world, but then, suddenly, he actually finds it. And now, the adventure begins.

I admit, as a 80s baby I have always loved the 80s. It is my belief that all us 80s children miss the 80s and everyone who wasn’t born in the 80s, just wishes they were. The fashionable socks, the ridiculous hair styles, the jammin’ tunes and most of all.. the awesome movie montages. Growing up with The Goblin King, Ferris Buller, Claire Standish, Marty McFly, Peter Venkman, Atreyu, The Three Amigos, Tootsie, The Terminator, E.T., The Dread Pirate Roberts, Indiana Jones, Officer John McClane and so many more made me a hardcore lover of all things 80s. As I got older, my love of 80s movies morphed into an all compassing love of the decade to include original Atari games and 80s jams. My little sister still gives me weird looks when Tears for Fears blasts out of my iPod, but then, she was born in 1987 and never embraced that decade as I felt she rightfully should.

This book, for me, was page after page of just plain fun. Who doesn’t want to experience a world where you can buy and restore a DeLorean? Model your home after those in the classic 80s tv shows? Experience your favorite Atari games from inside the game itself?

Not only is this book brain candy for anyone who is a geek, but the story itself is fast paced and engaging. I was fully invested in the characters, the game, OASIS and every moment of every plot twist. Regardless of whether you are an 80s fanatic wearing high tops, a trench coat and holding your boom box outside of your girlfriends room to play ‘In Your Eyes’, or just someone who loves books, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this adventure.

But I do recommend wearing high tops anyway, they’re just so darn stylish.

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Top Ten Favorite Childhood Books

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke And The Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Tuesday Freebie.

The masters of meme have let us be free! It was my birthday this week which tends to remind me of family, growing up and growing ancient. What better way to celebrate it than write about the books my father read to us as children.

The Rainbow Goblins

This is one of the most vivid memories I have of books we were read as kids. Even with the extremely deep colors and detailed illustrations, this book is not like any other children’s book. The story itself is pretty simple. Goblins who love to eat rainbows go to the forest where rainbows are born to try and steal them. The forest revolts to save the rainbow and the goblins end up drowning in the colors (if I remember it correctly.) Its a little dark for a childrens story, but the good ones always are. I always thought it was worth owning just for the imagery.

The Lady with the Ship on her Head

Madame Pompenstance, an 18-century woman in France, is walking along the beach, sad because she has no fancy headdress to wear to the ball. As she bends down to pick up some shells to put into her hair, a tiny ship sails into her flowing locks and resides there the rest of the evening. The evening is hard though, with a never ending headache that comes with having a ship on your head (and not knowing it.) It all ends well, she wins the prize at the ball for the best headdress. When she returns to put the shells back onto the beach, the ship sails back into the water without her ever knowing it. It is a sweet, silly and ridiculous story. Even the sailors on the tiny ship enjoy the ball, eating and drinking along the way. My dad often says that he read this book to us so much as children he still knows the words by heart. I believe it.

Where the Wild Things Are

I loved this story (didn’t we all?), the monsters, max’s costume and all the fun to be had upon the island. I was saddened when I watched the movie and it was so incredibly depressing. As with most books-into-movies, I was probably better off sticking with the book and ignoring that it was ever made into anything else.

   The Magic School Bus

I remember looking at Ms. Frizzle and thinking “Holy Moly! Look at that outfit!” She was always so outlandish and creative, I wondered if I too, could get solar system earrings that had their own magic revolving planets. I just thought it was the most awesome way to learn about science and wished I had a super cool teacher that could shrink us to the size of blood cells, or take us up into the clouds to ride on raindrops.

Anasi The Spider

Anasi, a loveable and michevious spider in Africa, sets off on an adventure and gets into all kinds of trouble. His six spider sons each help him in different ways when he needs them. He finds a beautiful glowing ball of light in the forest and tries to figure out who to give it too in thanks. When he can’t make a decision, a god helps by putting it up into the sky for all to enjoy. Voila! The origin of the moon. Related books are Raven and Zomo, by the same author. I remember reading those repeatedly as well, but figured one book by each author is good enough.

The Giving Tree

Maybe the most depressing book of every childhood and yet so well known and cherished by those who read it. The Giving Tree gives and gives and gives. She gives her shade, her apples and even her wood until she is only a stump to make the little boy happy. At the end of the story he comes back to her as an old man and sits upon her stump and she is happy again. I was never sure what to think of this story, what really is the message here? It is good to give? To take? Happiness is the presence of those we love? That we’ll give up everything for the one we love? Or is it just a not so well disguised tale of parenthood? Parents sometimes feel that they give their whole lives to their children, their years, their money, their energy, their time.. only to be abandoned, forgotten, unappreciated. Are you trying to tell us something Shel?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Man, this caterpillar can eat! But no! He is eating for a reason, he is eating to grow and change and become a lovely butterfly! And not only that, but he has to eat the correct food to become that lovely butterfly. Not only do we learn eating the right things will help us grow, but we learn out numbers, types of food, colors and days of the week. I think one my favorite things I’ve done as an adult is visited the Carle museum and seen firsthand his painting and drawings that went into creating this and his many other famous books.

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Decades later and I still want this crayon. Harold created his own world, he drew neighborhoods, lakes, oceans, boats, skies, stars and all his adventures. A book that is essentially about where our imagination can take us, is also a fun book about a young boy who creates his own story. Harold drew beautiful and exciting things for himself to experience. No nightmares, no darkness, no fear.

Just For You

The little critter books probably made an appearance in everyone’s childhood. Teaching us how to treat our siblings, how to remember our chores, comforting us that everyone is scared on their first day of school and has (unfortunately) a bedtime. I was never quite sure what they were though.. hamster? I guess thats why we call them ‘critters’, we’ll never really know.

The Cat in the Hat

Couldn’t wrap this up without tipping my childhood hat to Dr. Seuss. The rhyming genius of our childhoods whose world’s were topsy turvy and yet always made sense in the best ways. Dr. Seuss told us it was ok to be ourselves, no matter our color, age or gender. He taught us about vocabulary, imagination and friendship. He even taught us (that were reading closely) about accepting others for who they are and that its ok to be ridiculous when you’re having fun.