Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts/Parzival in 'Ready Player One.' Photo courtesy of IMDB.

‘Ready Player One’ – An Easter Egg of Pop Culture

The lure of this book is the fact that the world of ‘Ready Player One’ is fashioned by a creator obsessed with 1980s pop culture.

A tech company holds more sway than the government and an online world has become everyone’s new reality. Sound like some sort of prophecy? Maybe, but this is also the setting of Ready Player One, a sci-fi adventure book by Ernest Cline that paints a grim dystopian future based in an escapist virtual reality. After a heavy-handed opening of atheistic and nihilistic worldview preaching, you’ll find an intriguing story.

The real lure of this book is the fact that the world of Ready Player One is fashioned by a creator obsessed with 1980s pop culture. In tandem with the current phenomenon of 80s pop culture love, we find this new reality, The Oasis, instantly familiar.  In fact, the main character, Wade Watts, a.k.a. Parzival, becomes an online hero because of his hardcore nerd love for the decade’s pop culture. (In all fairness, I would geek out over my decade too if a billion dollar fortune was within my grasp if I could name an obscure video game reference.) But I digress. With the movie set to open on March 30, here’s why you really should consider reading this book before the movie is released.

1. The Book Is Always Better
You need to know the details and nuances of the world and the characters before you can truly appreciate the scale of this story on the big screen. I doubt we’ll find all the pop culture minutiae that the book so lovingly attends.

Case in point, if you just watch the trailer, you’ll see a lot of time dedicated to an intensely pumped up scene that is nowhere within the pages of the book. Then we see about a millisecond of one of the biggest moments. (Shakes head and sighs.)

2. You Need to Pace Yourself
You need time intervals so you can empathize with Parzival. Part of the beauty of the book is in the waiting game the main character plays in struggling through his quest. In his society of instant gratification, it is the only thing that makes his character slow down and think, and I can’t help but wonder if this is a good thing for our instant gratification society to remember and experience as well.

3. The Movie Might Be Amazing
Since Steven Spielberg himself is at the helm of this flick, it’s a good bet something great will flicker to life on the big screen. He picked this out of the racks for a reason, and this is a debut novel from screenwriter Ernest Cline, who also helped pen the film. Since Cline was a screenwriter before he became a novelist, you can bet he wrote with a cinematic eye. Who knows, maybe there was some under the table deal before he even wrote the thing, but it’s worth getting ahead of the hype so you can make your own judgments.

4. You Will Appreciate the Geek Love
Since the main character is a geek, he’s immediately likeable. In fact, he’s an underdog so his geek score is like off the charts. I mean, in Campbellian terms, he’s beginning his hero cycle in the most ordinary of ordinary worlds because he’s poor to boot. This guy is a bit Peter Parker (which is also referenced in the book and trailer). You can’t help but root for him. You revel in all his unashamed nerd-out moments and feel his pain when he is ashamed for his nerd-out moments. Because you know we’ve all been there. It’s just downright fun to read all the references. I’m also blown away by his dedication to geekdom. It’s like the people I see at Cons who go all out with their cosplay. I mean like full body paint or 200 hours worth of suit construction dedication. I’m thinking, “I’m not that deep, but good job, buddy. Way to represent.” That’s what it’s like reading Parzival’s journey.

Book to film adaptations are always a tough transition, but since we have a director like Spielberg and the novelist as screenwriter, I have hope that the changes were made with intelligence. Since the book is a fun play between intellect and pop culture geekdom, it’s a good bet it’ll be the same on screen. Just remember, books are always exciting virtual reality.

Editor’s Note: SCENES first published this article on February 15, 2018.

Written By
Christie Hudon is a playwright, poet, and author of children's and YA books. Much of her work tends toward the realm of fantasy.
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