The pace never lets up in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Even when Wade isn’t spending every waking moment searching for the Jade Key, interesting subplots keep you burning through the pages. This week’s chapters do feature the Easter egg hunt but also focus on Wade’s personal life and real world life. If escaping into the OASIS is half as addicting as escaping into books, I’d be so screwed.
When we wrapped up last week, Wade had just moved into his apartment in Columbus and promised he would abandon the real world until he found the egg. The first page of Level Two shows he’s putting off the quest in favor of something else though. Well, someone else. He’s chatting with Art3mis, and they start spending tons of time together.
I’m going to guess at least a few of you besides me have developed relationships—romances or friendships—online before meeting the person on the other side of the computer or sometimes without ever meeting them. You know what it’s like to eagerly expect an email or direct message. Cline captured those feelings and showed how the OASIS would change online dating while also illustrating Wade is letting himself get distracted inside the OASIS even though he’s shut out the real world.
Ready Player One fan art by Carlos Lerma
Art3mis backs off when she realizes Wade has strong feelings for her. I get the impression she shares those feelings, but she’s insecure and focused on nothing but the Easter egg. It doesn’t help that Wade’s declaration happened right before a bunch of Sixers tried to kill them. Their arrival emphasized the importance of getting the Jade Key and clearing the next gate. The sooner the quest is over, the sooner Sixers will stop trying to kill them. In theory.
After spending a couple of chapters seeing the dazzling places and objects that can be created within the OASIS, Cline slams us (and Wade) back into harsh reality. The juxtaposition makes the contrast hit harder. We get a tour of Wade’s small apartment and insight into how he’s keeping his body going—which is a concern since he spends so much time in a haptic chair in the OASIS. As someone who works from home, I found more parallels to Wade’s lifestyle than I care to admit. I still fit into my office chair, but I would benefit from having such an unforgiving workout program. And it’s a small thing, but the fact that Wade removes all his body hair so he doesn’t have to mess with grooming says much about how he sees the real world as an annoyance.
We learn Wade has a job taking time away from the hunt and get a few other aspects about OASIS politics. Cline takes care to build out both the real and virtual worlds. While Wade continues to not make progress, Art3mis finds the Jade Key. And then everything goes crazy. I didn’t want to stop turning pages before, but after this? I could have flown through the rest of the book. But I refrained because I don’t want to accidentally spoil something.
We’ve seen repeated examples of IOI and the Sixers being the worst, and their actions here continued to prove it. They used a magical artifact to find the location for the Jade Key and essentially covered the planet, making it impossible for other gunters to get in. The Jade Key was tied to a text adventure called Zork and a box of Captain Crunch.
Wade is angry at himself for not staying focused on the quest. He didn’t discover the Jade Key first and possibly only got to Frobozz when he did because of a tip from Aech. He barely beat the arrival of the Sixers. And then Sorrento went on to clear the Second Gate and acquire the Crystal Key. I’m experiencing stress.
And let’s not forget the trip Wade took to Archaide. Who wants to bet the quarter he obtained will come in handy later?
Pop culture references
The references might have slowed down in the previous chapters, but they went back to full velocity. It started in Parzival and Art3mis’s chat. I enjoy seeing the nods even if I haven’t played every game or listened to every song mentioned. That said, it is overload sometimes. I get how it fits into the context of the game but whew. It’s hard to keep up, and I could see how the references have the potential to be distracting if you don’t know half of them.
Anyway, let’s go over a few highlights. Wade’s passcode for the OASIS is “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.” It’s from “Don’t Let’s Start” by They Might Be Giants:
When Wade tries to get Art3mis’s attention after she cuts off contact, he stands outside her palace with a boombox and plays Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” The action is a reference to the end of 1989’s Say Anything where Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) does the same for Diane Court (Ione Skye).
Please don’t try this at home. You’ll likely just annoy neighbors.
Then there are Wade’s various modes of transportation. He has a DeLorean with Knight Rider and Ghostbusters touches. He has a Firefly-class ship called Vonnegut and an X-wing. He’s living out multiple fantasies at once.
I’m still slowly pinning all the references from Ready Player One onto a single Pinterest board. Emphasis on the word slowly.
“This is the OASIS. We exist as nothing but raw personality in here.”
“My obsession with finding Halliday’s Easter egg was gradually being supplanted by my obsession with Art3mis.”
“Each component of my rig was a bar I the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself.”
– We learn Wade’s current passcode is “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.” As mentioned above, it’s from a They Might Be Giants song, but why do you think Wade chose it?
– Would Wade’s extreme exercise program work for you?
– At the end of 0019, Wade discusses how his rig and the OASIS are a prison he’s willingly put himself in. Yet he makes no effort to change things. Why?
– What do you think happened to Daito?
Want to fully immerse yourself in the ’80s while you read Ready Player One? Whether you know the songs Wade mentions by heart or are listening to them for the first time, they’ll add to the experience. Castle Anorak has prepared a playlist with YouTube videos of songs and music mentioned in the book.
A lot of action and forward movement was packed into this week’s material. Maybe too much. Wade fell in love, got kicked to the curb, went through a written training montage of sorts, and the Easter egg hunt suddenly moved forward by leaps and bounds in a short amount of time. It actually all takes place in five to six months. The time period feels reasonable, but the pace is so quick it doesn’t set in, I guess? Perhaps it’s flying by because I never want to put this book down.
What’s on your mind after digesting the recent chapters? Head to the comments and tell us what you like and/or dislike, list your favorite quotes, and feel free to answer the discussion questions. If you take the conversation to Twitter, use the #NerdistBookClub hashtag and this list to talk to fellow gunters.
Return here for discussion of Part 4 on Thursday, March 26. We’ll be discussing Levels 0025-0031.
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