I may have gone a bit too deep.
But the rupees on the cover meant Zelda was going to play into this somehow, right?
Here’s my take. Posted for, if nothing else, to see what I got right and what I got wrong when the book releases. (And also because I can’t stop obsessively thinking about what could happen.)
After the events of Ready Player One, Z went through Halliday’s old things and discovered plans for tech that makes the OASIS fully immersive without the need for haptic suits and other equipment. The OASIS has become indistinguishable from reality by way of neurotech forming a connection with the user’s brain. GSS has been selling this tech for a while now and it’s, understandably, wildly popular. Arty is concerned that the tech was released too soon and is too powerful, but Z and Aech aren’t concerned, and Shoto, who has been withdrawn but can’t seem to find a purpose other than GSS, remains neutral.
Fade in to Z playing console games with the Halliday-as-a-kid NPC. He’s just introduced the little dude to the N64. They’re playing Ocarina of Time of course. Jimmy wants to spend too much time on mini games and Z is like, “C’mon little dude, you have a quest to go on!” Arty walks in with some reports, interrupting their game. She’s concerned because of a few instances lately where people have had trouble logging out. There are also reports of nightmares, speech problems, and other odd neurological effects after using the neurotech. At the same time, inside the OASIS, enemies have been cropping up in strange places, outside of dungeons and on planets where no combat is supposed to take place.
Z refuses to do anything about it, saying that all games have glitches, and the nightmares are probably just a coincidence. He pings Aech, who appears in the room as a teeny, tiny hologram. She’s totally on Z’s side, telling Arty to just have the developers keep looking into it. Arty insists that they don’t ignore this. When something is as powerful as their tech, there could be unexpected and devastating consequences. Z manages to placate her by promising to look into it himself.
That night, Z logs into an OASIS console, which gives him direct access to the code in 3D goodness a la 1993’s Hackers. There, he notices what Arty’s been talking about. And now, he can see it developing in real time. It’s almost as if someone is at another console, playing around, adding things to the OASIS and interfering with its connection to users’ neural pathways. Z tries fixing a few of the glitches. Just as he does, the tweaking stops. He pauses. Is someone tinkering with the OASIS?
Z rallies the gang to the Vonnegut, but just as he is about to give them all access to combat the problem, Anorak appears. Only, this isn’t the Anorak that Z last saw at the end of the contest. This Anorak is massive, grotesque, disfigured and dark, with pixelation scattered about his avatar, glitching in and out. He’s clearly corrupted somehow, not only in body but in mind, quoting movie lines that sound ominous in his creepy, part-computer voice. The Vonnegut starts disintegrating around them, blown apart by this Dark Anorak. They crash-land on the nearest planet.
The gang recover from the dust only to see Dark Anorak rise from the wreckage, but he’s grown to ten times the size he was a few moments before.
Aech says, “We’re gonna need a Bigger Red Button.”
Z tries to eliminate him, but nothing he tries seems to do any real damage. So much for all-powerful.
The giant Anorak easily levels Arty, Aech, and Shoto, then grabs Z, and disappears in a field of pixellation.
Arty assures the others that he can’t hurt Z’s avatar, which can’t die, much less the real Z. Only when she logs out, she can’t wake Wade up IRL. He’s stranded somewhere in the OASIS. She logs back in and brings the others up to speed. They try to use standard methods to locate Z, to no avail. Anorak seems to be more than just an avatar. They can’t remove him like another player. And they can’t locate him. In fact, traces of him seem to be everywhere. Aech suggests they pull his plug.. But Arty says she got word today of a woman who tried to manually extract her child from the neurotech. He’s now brain dead. And obviously the BRB (Big Red Button) is out, since even if they could find a way into that room, it could kill Z and millions of others jacked in with the new neurotech.
Just then, the child Halliday glitches in, giving them a clue about a treasure map that will lead to his “backups,” three gem-like artifacts that will restore him to his original state, which the real Halliday hid all over the OASIS in the event he would ever need to be restored. He bestows each member of the fellowship with artifacts that will help them on their journey. He whispers that Halliday still has plenty of buried secrets to discover before glitching back out.
Arty quips, “So, then. I guess we’re off to rescue princess Z.”
Aech nods. “And vanquish the evil GANORAK!”
Shoto gives them the side-eye. “Do we have to make everything a reference?”
They bring in Og for help, who says that Halliday would have wanted to make sure no one could find his backups except himself — or someone exactly like him, so they should expect nothing less difficult than the Contest. The four find a hidden clue on the map, which Arty deciphers, carrying them to Planet Hill Valley, (which was one of Z’s favorites.). They have to go back and forth through time to retrieve the gem. They succeed, but get stuck on the next riddle.
By now some of the users of the OASIS are starting to figure out the glitches, and Arty & Co have to address them publicly. The trio come back together for a meeting in the Basement when… a wild Parzival appears! They can’t believe it, and Og is so startled, he knocks some comics off a shelf while catching himself from falling. Z explains that his avatar is locked in some sort of dungeon, and he can’t just teleport out, but he’s figured out that he can still go into virtual chats. He’s been waiting *ages* for them to show up at the Basement!
Z helps solve the riddle, but there’s still the problem with him not being able to actually go to the next planet with them. It’s Shoto who thinks of a solution, setting up a virtual haptic rig within the Basement set to access the actual OASIS. Only this is rudimentary, and Z’s avatar within the greater OASIS can’t be very complex. Aech and Arty share some whispers with Shoto, and a few minutes later they’re back on Planet Hill Valley with Z in tow — as a tiny, annoying, glowing fairy, with a high-pitched, sing-song voice and a five-word vocabulary. Aech gets a kick out of flicking him.
With Z back, they decipher another riddle and, with the aid of the map, head to Planet Indiana, where they must fight through a dungeon filled by humongous skull-shattering boulders, spinny, saw-blade head removing things, and leaps of faith, hope, and charity. They then must choose Halliday’s favorite arcade game and beat it for the final clue.
This whole time, Z has been trying to find out what Dark Anorak is up to. He thinks that when Halliday built the OASIS, he built some sort of artifact that would grant the bearer power over even Anorak’s avatar, should his power ever get the best of him. It was the one artifact in the OASIS that was coded so that Anorak himself could never wield it. Z thinks that Dark Anorak is trying to find and destroy it, holding Z captive so that he can’t press the Big Red Button before that happens.
Back in the real world, Wade isn’t looking too hot. The gang notice this in the Basement as Z’s avatar starts to glitch out like Max Headroom at an increasing and alarming rate. But more bizarrely, everyone with the neurotech installed has miraculously gone back to their lives. GSS, which was at one point having trouble keeping people out of the OASIS and at work to keep the servers going, is now running like nothing happened. Yet, when Arty and crew check, their avatars are in the OASIS playing 24/7. Virtual zombies? The gang can only conclude that their irl bodies are being controlled by Dark Anorak while their minds are inside, playing the game.
They race to decipher the final clue, thinking they’re safe in the Basement, but Og’s avatar breaks into convulsions. It’s apparent that, while his avatar sat idle during their latest meeting, Dark Anorak found him. Og disappears from the room. They can’t find his avatar’s presence in the OASIS anywhere. He’s dead. Did he die in the real world? They don’t know because now NONE of them can log out. And Og was the second most powerful avatar, so judging by Dark Anorak’s pattern, any one of them could be next.
Driven by desperation, the gang finally decipher the location of the last piece of Anorak’s backup: Planet Henson where the Dark Crystal resides, and where they will have to battle EVIL MUPPETS and face a seemingly unending Labyrinth just to get to the castle.
But then what? How can they defeat an enemy who’s even more powerful than Parzival, the most powerful avatar in the OASIS? And could defeating him destroy the minds of countless people in the real world who are now jacked in in a whole new way? If they could only find the legendary artifact that would give them the ultimate power… or is that something they had with them all along?
Tune in next time to find out. Same bat time, same bat channel.
(Not really, lol)
I may have gone a bit too deep.