North Sound Writers

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Ready Player One – January 9th

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From the Nerdist Book Club:

Ready Player One was published in August 2011 and has won the Alex Award and the Prometheus Award. The story takes place in 2044; most people spend their time in a lush virtual world known as the OASIS rather than the less opulent real one. We follow Wade Watts (you had me at alliteration) as he searches for an easter egg to end all easter eggs. The prize was planted within the OASIS by its creator James Halliday. Countless people have hunted for the easter egg over the years but with no luck. Clues are around though, and they’re tied into late twentieth century pop culture. As you can imagine, that means a whole lot nerdy references that make this book feel like a present to geeks.

Wade ends up solving the first puzzle and then the race is on as all kinds of competitors – some deadly – join the treasure hunt. Yes, it is dramatic.

The book gets meta, too. After the book’s release, Cline revealed that he hid an easter egg in the book. The easter egg led to a series of video game-related tests and that led to a DeLorean. Yep, Cline gave away a DeLorean. In a weird twist of fate, he ended up getting the DeLorean back and plans to give it away again whenever he writes Ready Player 2. Related: a Ready Player One sequel is in the works and a film adaptation of Ready Player One is also in development.

Discussion Questions
1. The OASIS becomes a part of daily life for users around the globe. What virtual realms (Google, Facebook, iCloud) do you depend on? What is at stake in the war against IOI, the internet service provider that wants to overturn Halliday’s affordable, open-source approach? Is it dangerous to mix profit and dependence on technology?

2. Explore the question of identity raised in the novel. What do the characters’ avatars tell us about their desires and their insecurities? In reality, does our physical appearance give false clues about who we really are? How does Parzival, transformed into a celebrity gunter, become Wade’s true self?

3. With a narrator who vividly captures the human experience, Ready Player One delivers a world that is easy for us to imagine. In the novel, what was at the root of the grim downturn for Earth’s inhabitants? Could your community start looking like the stacks by the year 2044?

4. How does love affect Wade’s rational mind? Would you have given Art3mis the tip about playing on the left side to defeat the lich (page 99, chapter ten)? Did you predict that she would turn out to be a friend or a foe?

5. How does public school in the OASIS compare to your experience in school? Has author Ernest Cline created a solution to classroom overcrowding, student apathy, and school violence?

6. In his Columbus bunker, Wade puts on so many pounds that he can no longer fit comfortably in his haptic chair. How would you fare in his weight-loss program, described in chapter nineteen, featuring a simulation gym, coaching from Max, and a lockout system that restricts his diet and forces him to exercise?

7. Wade’s OASIS pass phrase is revealed on page 199, at the end of chapter nineteen: “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.” What does this philosophy mean to him at that point in his life?

8. How is the novel shaped by the 1980s backdrop, featuring John Hughes films, suburban shows like Family Ties, a techno-beat soundtrack, and of course, a slew of early video games? Did Halliday grow up in a utopia?

9. Discuss Bryce Lynch’s financial situation, rigged so that Wade could infiltrate IOI. When does Wade become willing to “die trying”? How did you react to the image of debtors being forced into indentured servitude?

10. Wade doesn’t depend on religion to make moral decisions or overcome life-threatening challenges. What does the novel say about humanity’s relationship to religion? What sort of god is Halliday, creator of the OASIS universe?

11. Despite their introverted nature, the book’s characters thrive on friendship. Discuss the level of trust enjoyed by Halliday and Og, and among Wade, Aech, Art3mis, Daito, and Shoto. How is true power achieved in Ready Player One?

12. In the closing scenes, Halliday’s reward proves to be greater than mere wealth. What is Halliday’s ultimate prize? How did the rules of Halliday’s game help him determine the type of player who would likely win?

13. In his quest for the three keys, Wade is required to inhabit many imaginary worlds, including movies, video games, and a simulation of Halliday’s childhood home. Which of these virtual realities appealed to you the most? What sort of virtual reality is provided by a novel?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

 

Back Up Book

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Plot Overview via Spark Notes

Watership Down is the tale of a group of rabbits in search of a home. Fiver, a small, young rabbit, has a gift: He can tell when things are going to happen and he can sense whether they will be good or bad. Fiver foresees great danger to the rabbits’ home warren. His brother Hazel, who is slightly larger and helps take care of Fiver, takes Fiver to the Chief Rabbit, the Threarah. Fiver tells the Threarah that he foresees great danger, but the Chief Rabbit does not believe him.

Hazel decides that they must leave the warren, so he recruits two of his friends, Dandelion and Blackberry, and Pipkin, a friend of Fiver. Bigwig, one of the leading members of the warren (the Owsla), believes Fiver and wants to go with them. They decide to try to convince other rabbits to come; Silver, Buckthorn, Hawkbit, Speedwell, and Acorn all go with them. Hazel is their leader, and he takes advice from Fiver about where to go.

The rabbits go through several adventures before Hazel successfully brings them to a field where they believe they can live. But the field is already inhabited by a group of rabbits, who seem strange but let the travelers stay with them. Fiver warns the rabbits not to join the new warren, but they do not listen to him because the living is easy and there is food for everyone. There is something odd about the warren, but they cannot figure out what it is. Finally, after an argument with Fiver, Bigwig gets caught in a snare. Hazel and the other rabbits manage to get him out, although they get no help from the rabbits who live in the warren. Fiver figures it all out, explaining to the group that a farmer leaves the great food behind for the rabbits in order to fatten them up before he catches them in his snares. They decide to leave, and one rabbit from the new warren, Strawberry, comes with them.

The rabbits travel on until they reach Watership Down. At the top there is a perfect field for a rabbit warren. They settle down in the field, but then Hazel realizes that they need does (female rabbits) to mate with, as they have only bucks and their warren will not last long without does. Holly and Bluebell, two survivors from their home warren, find the rabbits and tell them of a horrible poisoning that occurred. The rabbits befriend a wounded bird, Kehaar, and after he heals he searches for other warrens so they can get some does.

Kehaar finds a warren a few days away, as well as some rabbits living in the farm next to the down. The rabbits send an expedition to the warren (Efrafa) to try to bring back some does, and Hazel sets up a raid to free the rabbits in the farm. The get three of the four rabbits out, although Hazel is badly injured and thought dead until Fiver goes back and saves him. The expedition comes back roughed up, describing Efrafa as a horrible warren run by a militaristic warlord, General Woundwort.

Hazel decides that they must go to Efrafa and get some does, because otherwise they will not survive. He has Blackberry come up with a plan, and then the group sets off, leaving behind a few rabbits at the warren. Along with Blackberry, they sneak to a hiding place close to Efrafa, at which time Bigwig enters the warren, pretending to be a solitary rabbit. He finds a doe, Hyzenthlay, who helps him set up a plan to escape. With the help of Kehaar and his own strength and cunning, Bigwig engineers a masterful escape, and the whole groups flees on a boat just as General Woundwort is about to attack them. However, on the way back to Watership Down, a patrol from Efrafa bumps into them, and Captain Campion tracks them and finds their warren. Soon after they return, a mouse whom Hazel had earlier saved brings him news that there is a large number of rabbits close by. They realize that the Efrafans have brought a large force to destroy them.

Hazel immediately sets the rabbits to work preparing to defend the warren. They bury themselves in and prepare to fight off the invaders, even though they know it will likely cost them their lives. Hazel gets a flash of inspiration and runs off with Dandelion and Blackberry to try to release the dog from the farmhouse and get him to attack the Efrafan rabbits. Meanwhile, Bigwig faces Woundwort in a tremendous battle. Woundwort is bigger and stronger than any other rabbit, but Bigwig defeats him, and soon afterward the dog comes and scatters the Efrafan forces. A cat catches Hazel, but the girl who lives at the farm saves the rabbit and lets him go.

The rabbits live happily in their warren and Campion returns to run the Efrafan warren. They decide to build a third warren halfway between the two and fill it with rabbits from each warren. Hazel lives several years, longer than most rabbits live, and he sees the warren prosper and thrive before he dies.

Book Questions:

  1. Why rabbits? Can you imagine Watership Down with some other type of animal—wolves, cats, snakes, little children? Does it matter to you that the rabbits mostly do normal rabbit-y things? What about the story telling and Fiver’s prophetic abilities—things that real rabbits don’t do or have (we hope)—do they interfere with your ability to believe this action?
  2. Why set the book in the real environment of England? What do you think this book would be like if Adams made up a fantasy world? Or what do you think it would be like if he set the action in a place far away, like America or Australia?
  3. Do you think there’s a historical lesson in this book? Is this book (written in the 1970s) modeled on some particular historical event or era, like World War II? If the book has a lesson, does that lesson matter for today?
  4. What do you think of the point of view? How does it change your feelings about the characters when we see the world from Woundwort’s P.O.V. or see his life story? What about the brief section from the humans’ P.O.V.—does that affect how you feel about humans? Are those sections written differently?
  5. Why do you think the book is split into four parts? Do each of those parts tell a complete part of the overall story? Do you think all of the episodes in the novel are equally important? Can you imagine this story without any episode? Like what would you think if we skipped over the final war with Efrafa?
  6. What do you think about the stories of El-ahrairah? Are they fun and interesting? Or do they just interrupt the main story about Hazel’s rabbits? Do the stories of El-ahrairah have some connection to the main story? For instance, the story of the King’s Lettuce gets told in Cowslip’s warren—is that story related to what’s going on in the warren?
  7. What do you think about the epigraphs for each chapter? Do you recognize the authors and the works being quoted? Do the epigraphs tell you what’s going to happen in the chapter? Do the epigraphs seem super-hard? How does that make you feel? (And don’t say dumb, because even we had to look up a few of these authors.)
  8. How do you feel about Woundwort? He’s a dangerous villain, right? But what about all his positive qualities, like his courage? Is he admirable in a way? Or just evil?
  9. What do you think about the descriptions of the landscape? Do they help you imagine this wilderness setting? Do they interest you? Or do you want to skip the description of the landscape and focus on the plot?
  10. What do you think of the rabbit language Lapine? Is it weird to read a book with some strange foreign words in it? Or was it fun? Did it make you think of the rabbits as different from us?
  11. What are the differences between the book and the movie? Between the book and the TV show?
  12. This question is only going to work if you’ve read some other books, but we’ll ask anyway: How does Watership Down differ from other animal stories, like Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH or Charlotte’s Web? Do all books about animals have the same themes and lessons? (Like “be nice to animals”?)
  13. What do you think about the female rabbits in this book? The male rabbits at first only think that they are good for breeding, but is that true in the book? And what about Lucy, the little girl who is smart enough to go to school? Is she a role model or a stereotype for girls and women?
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