The Hazards of Escaping Reality

Reality and PerceptionMedia

When I first heard about Ready Player One, I thought, “This is probably gonna be another just ok sci-fi book.” But I was wrong.

I loved it so much that I read it in one night. The characters were described well, the plot was exciting and intriguing, and it was written with depth and description. I just couldn’t put it down.

Ready Player One is a sci-fi adventure novel by Ernest Cline. It takes place in 2044 in a futuristic dystopian universe, in which a virtual reality program called the OASIS has taken over people’s lives. The main character, Wade Watts, is no exception. The OASIS is like a second life. You can control your avatar’s name, characteristics, personality, and actions. You can level up by killing monsters, get awesome new gear, and travel to different planets. The plot of Ready Player One revolves around the search for three keys that the game’s creator, James Halliday, hid within the OASIS. There is a clever riddle and test to achieve each key. The first person to get them all will inherit an enormous sum of money and get complete control over the OASIS.

One important theme that runs through this book is escaping reality. Characters mask their identities by changing their gender or race and by deceiving others, both within the OASIS and out. Players often don’t know whom they’re talking to.

"In the OASIS, you could become whomever and whatever you wanted to be, without ever revealing your true identity, because your anonymity was guaranteed. " (Chapter 0005)

Everyone wants to escape reality because of the terrible state of their real surroundings. Cline portrays the world in 2044 as a bleak, dismal place where almost everyone is poor and much of America lives in giant trailer towers called stacks. It’s a dangerous and crime-ridden world with no trees or nature, so it’s no wonder that people want to escape into the OASIS.

One prominent character is an African American lesbian who gets kicked out by her homophobic mom. The poverty, racism, and homophobia she suffers in the real world are the reasons she chooses to be white, straight, and male in the OASIS. When I think about the horrors this character has faced, I find myself understanding her decision to run away into virtual reality, even going so far as to create an avatar that is exactly the opposite of her real identity. However, I worry that by hiding deeper in the OASIS she’s making her problems worse.

Wade, on the other hand, has different motivations for spending time in the OASIS. One would think that because Wade has the most reasons to want to escape into virtual reality, he would hide the most, but of all the characters, he hides the least. This is because he has the least to lose. Wade is an orphan. His dad was shot while looting a store and his mother died of a drug overdose. Our orphan hero is a victim of the bleak world in this book. As I read, I found myself wondering why so many protagonists are orphans: Harry Potter, Oliver Twist, and Huckleberry Finn, just to name a few. I think so many writers create orphan heroes in order to capture our hearts and demand our sympathy. An orphan will go to extreme lengths to achieve his goals because he doesn’t have much to lose. Whereas another person would be too afraid, Wade risks his life in an attempt to win the final battle.

In the OASIS, each key opens a gate, and each gate is an easter egg. The player who opens the last gate will receive money and ownership of the OASIS. It struck me as beautiful that an egg, a source of life, is the ultimate goal in this awful world. However, it’s only a virtual egg. Surely, our ultimate goal should be life in the real world. Most of the action in this book takes place not in reality but in the perceived reality of the OASIS. Cline shows us how much the characters depend on this second life. It seems that without the OASIS, all the characters would be lost, or not even alive.

I would rate Ready Player One 4.5 stars out of 5. It is a phenomenal book filled with adventure and humor, and I would read it a thousand times over. I recommend it to anyone over eleven, including adults.

Ready Player One serves as a warning to save ourselves and our planet before it’s too late. In the first chapter, Wade wishes someone had warned him.

"So now the polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and the weather is all messed up. Plants and animals are dying off in record numbers and lots of people are starving and homeless. And we’re still fighting wars with each other, mostly over the few resources we have left. " (Chapter 0001)

This description is as true of our world as it is of Wade’s. Ready Player One is a cautionary tale about the way we’re living our lives today. I was aware while reading the book that the book is set in the near future, and I will only be 37 in 2044. Cline was warning me that if I’m not careful, my world could be the same as Wade’s.

In my modern world, everywhere I look there is a device out. Whether it’s at a playdate, at dinner with my family, or just on my morning walk to school, I always see people looking down at their phones instead of at each other. Even I am guilty of this. Cline wants us to live our lives in the real world and not run away into the internet. We may have terrible poverty, crime, war, hunger, and an environmental crisis, but as bad as things are, we still have forests and oceans, and most importantly, we have the chance to save our planet. In short, we have hope. And it is up to us to make the most of it.

Satya is a sixth grader at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York. He loves to read, write, and play Minecraft. His dream is to be an actor.