Ready Player One - It's Egg Hunting Season!
In little over a week, the whole Boards of Canada Easter Egg Hunt has progressed significantly. At the time of writing, we have five of the six numbers – but we're still no closer to discovering what it all means.
It turns out that The Record Store Day Incident (as it's now being called – how Fortean!) was just the kick-off. Whilst everyone initially thought that there'd be a different code on each of the six records (of which only four have apparently been found), instead it appears that each code will reveal itself in a different way.
First there was all the rigmarole on the band's YouTube channel. Since then, subsequent codes have been variously revealed through clever gif manipulation; through broadcasts on NPR and on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show (number stations!) and, best of all, through the above advert that was broadcast on The Cartoon Network (of all places).
The most intriguing event, though, has been a projection on the building opposite London's Rough Trade store (where the second vinyl was found). The staff of the store claimed total ignorance. And, despite rumours circulating that the door of the building would open at midnight (for the first Boards of Canada gig since 2002?), very little came of this.
Still, it seemed to confirm not just the authenticity of this whole thing (as if there remained any doubters), but also the unbearably exciting notion that something's happening.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that my love for Boards of Canada runs through me like the lettering on Blackpool Rock, my part in this will only ever be as an observer. With a string of six numbers making up a 36 digit code, it's obvious that this will ultimately present a mathematical problem.
Reincarnation is a nice idea, and I like to think that, before you regenerate, you get to choose certain traits – like an RPG character creation screen. Well, if I'm given a second chance of life, above all I'd like to try my hands at being somebody with an inherent interest in science, technology and mathematics.
At the moment, though scientific and mathematical theories can pique my interest, I feel as though the very wiring of my brain prevents me from truly comprehending anything I read about – let alone from forming or applying any of my own theories.
It's always been like this. At school I pushed myself to get an A in GCSE Maths, but I was really only learning by rote exactly the information that would be required to pass that specific exam. I had no underlying understanding or appreciation of the information, and I promptly forgot pretty much everything I'd learned the second I finally put my pencil down at the end of the exam.
Still. I might not have developed a very scientific mind, but I think I've more than made up for that through my love of music, films, history, words, grammar and stories – by which I mean books.
So whilst I can't play an active part in the Boards of Canada Easter Egg Hunt, I can at least enjoy it as a bloody good story.
And as a bloody good story, it's particularly enjoyable because the whole thing reminds me of a bloody good story I read recently.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a very popular book indeed. It's so popular, that people dress as it for Halloween. Not as characters from the book, mind, but as the book itself.
I don't think even Twilight elicited that level of devotion.
Ready Player One takes place in 2044. The world isn't quite a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but society and the economy appeared to have collapsed and things are quite awful. So most people spend their time inside a ridiculously immersive virtual reality environment called OASIS.
Designed by an obsessive savant called Halliday, I really wish that OASIS actually existed in real life. It's a seemingly infinite universe in which you can be whoever you want, do whatever you want and fully-explore the locations of pretty much any sci-fi or fantasy universe you could care to mention.
Before passing away, Halliday reveals that he's hidden an Easter Egg somewhere in OASIS, and whoever finds it will inherit his vast fortune. The novel details the exploits of a player called Parzival and his friends in their quest to track down this elusive egg.
As the novel goes, it's far from perfect. It's told in the first person – from Parzival's perspective – and it's implied that he's telling his story so that future generations will understand “what really happened”. But if that's the case, I've no idea why he feels the need to pepper his narrative with such excessive cultural-economic infodumps. It's fascinating for us early 21st century readers to get an insight into his world, but surely Parzival's intended audience would already be painfully familiar with the world he's describing? After all, they've never known any other.
The world-building, then, is clumsy at best, and the final “message” appears to undermine absolutely everything that's come before. But still, Ready Player One remains some of the best genre fiction I've read in recent years.
This is partly because it's so engaging. The idea that your obsessive knowledge of pop culture might save the world (a virtual world at that) is very appealing to anyone who likes films, music and video games as more than just part of a lifestyle.
But the most remarkable thing about Ready Player One is that everything Parzival achieves he does so under his own volition - using a combination of knowledge, intuition and incredible courage. Parzival is therefore a real hero, and a most refreshing change from the “chosen one” trope that still seems to dominate genre fiction.
Honestly, is there anything more boring than a meek hero who has greatness thrust upon him? I'm certainly had enough of that idea. From now on, I only want heroes who know what they're doing, know why they're doing it and, crucially, who want to do it.
Which is why Ready Player One is such an engaging, refreshing read. All this useless knowledge I've built up over the years? It might not always be useless.
So my lack of mathematical knowledge might force me to take a regretful back seat in this Boards of Canada Easter Egg Hunt. But you never know. One day, there might be something greater at stake – the fate of the world! - and it might depend on deep knowledge and appreciation of my specific interests.
But until then, hey! New Boards of Canada album!
Probably. All of this has to lead to something.