Based on the trailer, the upcoming Ready Player One film appears to be totally faithful to the book that inspired it. For some people, that means it'll be an action-packed ‘80s throwback; for others, that means it'll be a nonsensical mess with a side of racism and sexism. Although Ready Player One is a polarizing book, its subject matter has widespread appeal: ‘80s kitsch, virtual reality, nerdy romance and online gaming. Whether you loved or hated Ready Player One, here are some similar — and arguably better — books.
The ‘80s were a time of over-the-top horror films, teen friendships and preposterous fashion decisions. My Best Friend's Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix, combines all of those disparate threads into one tremendously entertaining novel. High school juniors Abby and Gretchen are best friends, but nothing tests the bonds of companionship like being possessed by an evil spirit. Gretchen's incredibly strange behavior could be demonic in origin — or it could be a sign of changing teenage tastes. Reviewers describe this one as a mix between "The Exorcist" and "Heathers."
If you yearn for the sci-fi pop culture of yesteryear, Ryan Britt has you covered. In "Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths," Britt pens a whole book's worth of essays about everything from Star Wars to Doctor Who to Sherlock Holmes to Barbarella. The book is educational, in the same way that sitting on your couch and thinking way too deeply about disposable children's entertainment can be educational. But more than that, it's incredibly funny and might spark your own late-night revelations about your favorite properties.
Remember your first job? Getting up early, making friends, tackling murderous extraterrestrial dinosaurs — good times. "Paper Girls" focuses on four suburban girls making newspaper deliveries during the Reagan era. They bond over school, boys, music — and having to fight off a mysterious alien invasion that freezes time for almost everyone in town except themselves. As the story progresses, they tackle everything from bullying to time travel, all while dealing with the looming specter of the Cold War. It's kind of funny, kind of sweet and kind of nostalgic.
Listen up, kids. Before we had Spotify playlists, the only way to share music with your friends was to make them a mixtape, in which you recorded your favorite songs onto a cassette. (Just like in Guardians of the Galaxy!) In "Signal to Noise," by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, young protagonist Mercedes Vega doesn't just get a kick out of making '80s mixtapes; she also gets magical powers. While spellcasting sounds great, in theory, it makes the perils of teenage friendship and romance in Mexico City that much more complicated.
If you dream of a totally immersive video game, Christopher Brookmyre's Bedlam explains why the scenario might be more of a nightmare. In the novel, players enter a digital world in which anything goes: high fantasy dragons, or spacefaring starships. Death isn't permanent, and war is. Imagine "Tron," but with more serious consequences, and that's about the long and short of it. With lots of nostalgic nods to the games that inspired it, Bedlam is unsettling, funny and enormously creative. You may not want to play a video game for a while afterward, though.
Did you get a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas when you were growing up? If so, you'll relate to 8-Bit Christmas, a comic novel from Kevin Jakubowski. Jake Doyle wants a Nintendo, but a local uproar makes the prospect of getting one for the holidays extremely unlikely. In a tale that references just about every classic toy from the '80s (including G.I. Joe, Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Kids, Super Mario Bros. and a set of baseball cards), Jakubowski reminds us of how much fun the '80s were — and how ridiculous they could be.
Ever since Romeo and Juliet, people have really liked stories about star-crossed teenage lovers — but Romeo and Juliet didn't bond over their mutual love of mixtapes and X-Men comics. "Eleanor & Park," by Rainbow Rowell, tells the story of the two titular characters: 16-year-old students who fall for each other in 1986. Their parents don't approve, naturally — and they can't help but realize that the long-term prospects for high school relationships aren't usually that good. If '80s love stories are your thing, this one is sweet — but not too sweet.