I consider myself a mid-level geek. I like science fiction and fantasy and anime and Saturday morning cartoons. But in the hardcore realms of fandom, I would be considered an outsider. I only know what the show tells me, not additional trivia given by the probably-overweight-and-bearded creator. I will become emotionally involved watching The Return of the King, but I won’t dress up as an elf to go to the midnight showing.
But even on mid-level geekdom, I still enjoyed Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.
It is, as Amazon says, “part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots.” Wade Watts—who is of course young, orphaned and destined for greatness!—lives in the slums of 2044. The OASIS is a giant virtual reality world, the new internet. James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, dies and leaves an Easter Egg in the vast realm of the OASIS. Whoever finds it wins his multi-billion dollar estate.
So, what we have here is the typical quest, but because it’s set in a virtual world, basically anything is possible, without too much explanation. Hence, it can be jam-packed with pop culture. And is. More than once, I found myself skipping over entire pages of reference to get back to the action. But I do this with Tolkien too, skipping over the history of such-and-such forest so I can return to the storyline. Like I said—only a mid-level geek here.
But the story, outside of the pop culture, is still adventurous and fun. And I really liked Wade.
So—as someone who only caught 20% of the references, I still enjoyed it. If you know all the references, then you will loooove it. As Patrick Rothfuss says, “It’s completely frickin’ awesome. It pleased every geeky bone in my body. I felt like it was written just for me.”