Nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read
The bestselling cult classic—now a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner , and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
- Publisher: Books on Tape
- Date: Aug 2011
From the book
I was jolted awake by the sound of gunfire in one of the neighboring stacks. The shots were followed by a few minutes of muffled shouting and screaming, then silence.
Gunfire wasn't uncommon in the stacks, but it still shook me up. I knew I probably wouldn't be able to fall back asleep, so I decided to kill the remaining hours until dawn by brushing up on a few coin-op classics. Galaga, Defender, Asteroids. These games were outdated digital dinosaurs that had become museum pieces long before I was born. But I was a gunter, so I didn't think of them as quaint low-res antiques. To me, they were hallowed artifacts. Pillars of the pantheon. When I played the classics, I did so with a determined sort of reverence.
I was curled up in an old sleeping bag in the corner of the trailer's tiny laundry room, wedged into the gap between the wall and the dryer. I wasn't welcome in my aunt's room across the hall, which was fine by me. I preferred to crash in the laundry room anyway. It was warm, it afforded me a limited amount of privacy, and the wireless reception wasn't too bad. And, as an added bonus, the room smelled like liquid detergent and fabric softener. The rest of the trailer reeked of cat piss and abject poverty.
Most of the time I slept in my hideout. But the temperature had dropped below zero the past few nights, and as much as I hated staying at my aunt's place, it still beat freezing to death.
A total of fifteen people lived in my aunt's trailer. She slept in the smallest of its three bedrooms. The Depperts lived in the bedroom adjacent to her, and the Millers occupied the large master bedroom at the end of the hall. There were six of them, and they paid the largest share of the rent. Our trailer wasn't as crowded as some of the other units in the stacks. It was a double-wide. Plenty of room for everybody.
I pulled out my laptop and powered it on. It was a bulky, heavy beast, almost ten years old. I'd found it in a Dumpster behind the abandoned strip mall across the highway. I'd been able to coax it back to life by replacing its system memory and reloading the stone-age operating system. The processor was slower than a sloth by current standards, but it was fine for my needs. The laptop served as my portable research library, video arcade, and home theater system. Its hard drive was filled with old books, movies, TV show episodes, song files, and nearly every videogame made in the twentieth century.
I booted up my emulator and selected Robotron: 2084, one of my all-time favorite games. I'd always loved its frenetic pace and brutal simplicity. Robotron was all about instinct and reflexes. Playing old videogames never failed to clear my mind and set me at ease. If I was feeling depressed or frustrated about my lot in life, all I had to do was tap the Player One button, and my worries would instantly slip away as my mind focused itself on the relentless pixelated onslaught on the screen in front of me. There, inside the game's two-dimensional universe, life was simple: It's just you against the machine. Move with your left hand, shoot with your right, and try to stay alive as long as possible.
I spent a few hours blasting through wave after wave of Brains, Spheroids, Quarks, and Hulks in my unending battle to Save the Last Human Family! But eventually my fingers started to cramp up and I began to lose my rhythm. When that happened at this level, things deteriorated quickly. I burned through all of my extra lives in a matter of minutes, and my two least-favorite words appeared on the screen: game over.
I shut down the emulator and began to browse through my video files. Over the past five years, I'd downloaded...
"The science-fiction writer John Scalzi has aptly referred to READY PLAYER ONE as a "nerdgasm" [and] there can be no better one-word description of this ardent fantasy artifact about fantasy culture...But Mr. Cline is able to incorporate his favorite toys and games into a perfectly accessible narrative." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Triggers memories and emotions embedded in the psyche of a generation...[Cline crafts] a fresh and imaginative world from our old toy box, and finds significance in there among the collectibles. A-" - Entertainment Weekly
"A most excellent ride...the conceit is a smart one, and we happily root for [the heroes] on their quest...fully satisfying." - Boston Globe
"Enchanting...Willy Wonka meets the Matrix. This novel undoubtedly qualifies Cline as the hottest geek on the planet right now. [But] you don't have to be a geek to get it." - USA Today
"A fun, funny and fabulously entertaining first novel...This novel's large dose of 1980s trivia is a delight...[but] even readers who need Google to identify Commodore 64 or Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde, will enjoy this memorabilian feast." - Cleveland Plain Dealer
"The grown-up's 'Harry Potter'...the mystery and fantasy in this novel weaves itself in the most delightful way, and the details that make up Mr. Cline's world are simply astounding. READY PLAYER ONE has it all." - Huffington Post
"Incredibly entertaining...Drawing on everything from "Back to the Future" to Roald Dahl to Neal Stephenson's groundbreaking "Snow Crash," Cline has made READY PLAYER ONE a geek fantasia, '80s culture memoir and commentary on the future of online behavior all at once." - Austin American-Statesman
"READY PLAYER ONE is the ultimate lottery ticket." - New York Daily News
"This non-gamer loved every page of READY PLAYER ONE." - Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series
"Gorgeously geeky, superbly entertaining, this really is a spectacularly successful debut." - Daily Mail (UK)
"A gunshot of fun with a wicked sense of timing and a cast of characters that you're pumping your fist in the air with whenever they succeed. I haven't been this much on the edge of my seat for an ending in years." - Chicago Reader
"A rollicking, surprise-laden, potboiling, thrilling adventure story.... I loved every sentence of this book" - Mark Frauenfelder, BoingBoing
"A 'frakking' good read [featuring] incredible creative detail...I grinned at the sheer audacity of Cline's imagination." - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"[A] fantastic page-turner....READY PLAYER ONE may be science fiction, but it's also written for people who have never picked up an SF novel in their lives..." - Annalee Newitz, io9.com
"Fascinating and imaginative...It's non-stop action when gamers must navigate clever puzzles and outwit determined enemies in a virtual world in order to save a real one. Readers are in for a wild ride." - Terry Brooks, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Shannara series
"I was blown away by this book...A book of ideas, a potboiler, a game-within-a-novel, a serious science-fiction epic, a comic pop culture mash-up--call this novel what you will, but READY PLAYER ONE will defy every label you try to put on it. Here, finally, is this generation's Neuromancer." - Will Lavender, New York Times bestselling author of Dominance
"I really, really loved READY PLAYER ONE...Cline expertly mines a copious vein of 1980s pop culture, catapulting the reader on a light-speed adventure in an advanced but backward-looking future." - Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse
"A nerdgasm...imagine Dungeons and Dragons and an 80s video arcade made hot, sweet love, and their child was raised in Azeroth." - John Scalzi, New York Times bestselling author of Old Man's War
"Completely fricking awesome...This book pleased every geeky bone in my geeky body. I felt like it was written just for me." - Patrick Rothfuss, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wise Man's Fear
"An exuberantly realized, exciting, and sweet-natured cyber-quest. Cline's imaginative and rollicking coming-of-age geek saga has a smash-hit vibe." - Booklist, starred review
"This adrenaline shot of uncut geekdom, a quest through a virtual world, is loaded with enough 1980s nostalgia to please even the most devoted John Hughes fans... sweet, self-d - Publishers Weekly, Pick of the Week