We love books about the future – even if that future happens to be bleak. And that’s definitely the case with Ernest Cline’s beloved 2011 novel, Ready Player One, which imagines a crowded 2044 where global warming has wrecked havoc and most places on earth have become overpopulated slums. Because reality is so uninviting, many people prefer to live in a virtual reality called OASIS. The book follows Wade Watts, a teen living in Columbus, Ohio, who’s obsessed with old video games and ‘80s pop culture, and who navigates OASIS as the avatar Parzival. Wade becomes determined to find a series of keys that will lead him to a hidden Easter egg, a game that was set in motion when the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, died. The first to find his hidden prize will inherit James’ vast fortune and gain control of OASIS. As Wade searches for the keys, he makes virtual friends and fights against IOI, a company determined to do whatever it takes to find the Easter egg first.
Fast-paced, exciting and endlessly creative, there’s a reason that Ready Player One was an instant bestseller. Now the story is finally being made into a movie starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke and many more. Oh, and the film is also being directed by Steven Spielberg. Maybe you’ve heard of him?
Needless to say, fans of both Spielberg and Cline’s book are very, very excited about this adaptation. And they should be – the first trailer came out a couple of weeks ago at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and it looks awesome.
The Punch Escrow, Tal Klein (Geek & Sundry, July 25, 2017)
Teleportation, clones, and mutated mosquitoes populate the pages of Klein’s inventive and engaging sci-fi novel, out just last month. The story focuses on Joe Byram, a fairly average guy who’s dealing with a failing marriage and his work with artificial intelligence. Other than his fairly normal life problems, the future of 2147 is perfect, with no poverty, no aging, and technology that’s safe and reliable. Until one day when Joe is cloned while teleporting, something that was never supposed to happen according to the company that perfected it. Suddenly Joe is questioning everything about his world, his marriage, and the uncertain future he lives in – and it certainly doesn’t help that now there’s two of him.
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (Spectra, August 26, 2003)
If you want to read a modern classic novel about virtual reality, then look no further. Originally published in 1992, Snow Crash not only put Stephenson on the map as one of the most influential sci-fi writers of his generation, it also helped introduce the world to the “cyberpunk” genre. Over 20 years later, the story still holds up. Set in a future where corporations have taken over and there are no real laws, Hiro Protagonist is a pizza delivery man for the mafia in the real world and a warrior hacker in the virtual Metaverse. When a new online drug called Snow Crash damages his best friend in real life, Hiro decides to put a stop to it. He embarks on an adventure that takes places half in reality, half in the virtual world, one that’s made all the more exciting through Stephenson’s hilarious and fast-paced prose. This is one classic read of the genre that will never go out of style.
Opening Moves, Cosimo Yap (Self-published, March 24, 2016)
Yap’s cyberpunk web novel is also a LitRPG, or a Literature Role Playing Game, meaning that characters enter into a realistic game world (there’s some debate over whether Ready Player One also meets this criteria). Opening Moves is about a future where aliens have taken over, bringing with them “The Game,” a virtual world of obstacles and strengths where intergalactic conflicts are played out. The newly invaded Earth has only a short amount of time before those conflicts start affecting them too. Our hero, Alan, is chosen to be part of that game, entering into a virtual world that could affect humanity’s very existence.