Acclaimed author of ‘Ready Player One’ to speak at WSU

If you’re hoping to check out a library copy of “Ready Player One,” Washington State University’s Common Reading book selection, plan on waiting a while.

The sci-fi dystopian book is popular reading, and not just for young adults. It’s appeal is part of the reason for its selection as the first novel to be included in the program. The book’s author, Ernest Cline, will speak at Beasley Coliseum Monday.

Set in the year 2044, “Ready Player One” features a world marred by economic stagnation and social problems brought on by resource depletion and climate change. The masses escape this less-than-ideal reality by turning to the OASIS, a virtual reality simulator that encompasses all aspects of life. When OASIS’s inventor dies, a virtual reality game is launched to determine who will inherit the company and its fortune. The story follows Wade Watts when he discovers one of the keys needed to win the game.

Lectures, films, exhibits and other public events based on the themes raised in the book will take place throughout the school year. As an added bonus, and unrelated to the book’s selection, Steven Spielberg is directing a film adaptation of the book, scheduled to be released in March.

Given this year’s theme of exploring the frontiers of technology, society and health, it’s no surprise that a handful of sci-fi novels were considered for selection. Ultimately, it was “Ready Player One” that made the cut.

“This is the best book ever for the Common Reading program,” said Chuck Munson, a professor in the College of Business and part of the selection team.

click to enlarge Ernest Cline - DAN WINTERS
Dan Winters
Ernest Cline

He explained that today’s college students aren’t that excited about reading; he’s hopeful they’ll make an exception for this book. While it raises big issues, Munson thinks there’s a good chance it won’t get put down at the end of every chapter like a nonfiction book might.

“My feeling is that they’re going to eat it up for the story itself,” Munson said.

The book is intended to serve as a springboard for classroom and campus discussion about new technology in a myriad of disciplines, ranging from business and computer programming, to art and science.

“It’s such a compelling book, and it opens avenues to exploring new technologies and the questions those technologies raise,” said Karen Weathermon, co-director of the Common Reading program.

The book features technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, simulation, artificial intelligence and big data, while raising personal and ethical issues like online relationships and personas, privacy, technology addiction, inequality and navigating the discrepancies between the virtual world and the real world.

Unlike a non-fiction book, which would be limited to discussion of existing technologies, the novel looks into a possible future and raises questions about where technology is going.

“We’re in the midst of enormous change,” Weathermon said. “We’re having to figure out the implications of these technologies.”

The changes are happening so fast, Weathermon said, that we aren’t always able to see consequences until after it’s too late to do anything about it.

In addition to the author lecture, a number of events will take place throughout the year in connection with the themes raised in “Ready Player One.” For updated information about upcoming events, visit commonreading.wsu.edu.

IF YOU GO: WHAT: Common Reading Invited Lecture with Ernest Cline, author of “Ready Player One” WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday WHERE: Beasley Coliseum, Washington State University, Pullman COST: $15/adults, $10/non-WSU students, free/WSU students; tickets available at www.ticketswest.com or call (800) 325-SEAT

View the movie trailer of “Ready Player One”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-vGWwRF_Qc

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