Yesterday was May 5th. For much of the world, this means Cinco de Mayo. Here in South Korea, however, it means 어린이날, or Children's Day. My family spent this Children's Day with the family of my friend, Joe McPherson. While our kids played together, the adults ate fried chicken and Jamaican pork tacos, and drank a lot of beer.
Joe had recently insisted I read a book called READY PLAYER ONE, by Ernest Cline. He wasn't the first person to recommend this book to me, and I'd been meaning to read it for a while. A few days ago, I finally got around to buying and reading it. It was a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it. In fact, if you haven't already read it, you should probably go and do that before reading the rest of this blog post.
As we ate and drank and talked, Joe had a nice 80s music playlist going on in the background. Eventually, Cyndi Lauper's The Goonies 'R' Good Enough came on. Joe and I were already talking about Ready Player One, and now I was thinking about The Goonies as well. Before long, my beer-addled brain started making connections between the two. As we continued to drink and talk, the connections grew stronger, until the realization finally dawned on me... These are the exact same story!
Okay, so maybe I'm being a tad hyperbolic. But the parallels are there, and they're interesting. I'll do my best to tiptoe around any RPO spoilers (but seriously, if you haven't already, stop reading this and go read it.), but all bets are off for The Goonies. It's thirty goddamn years old. If you haven't seen it already, shame on you.
So strap on your visors and haptic gloves. If your mind is as easy to blow as mine is, prepare to be blown.
Let's start off with the most obvious connection. These are both treasure hunt stories. That, in and of itself, is nothing to blog about. Lot's of stories are treasure hunt stories. But let's take a closer look at who hid these treasures.
Both James Halliday and One-Eyed Willy were reclusive men who spent the final years of their lives setting up an elaborate quest for which the prize was a shit ton of treasure.
Both men were eccentric. Halliday could barely function in any social situation outside of Dungeons and Dragons, and One-Eyed Willy was a Spaniard named "Willy".
Halliday left a cryptic video to the world as a springboard for the hunt he'd planned. He planted clues in little rhyming poems.
One-Eyed Willy left a series of clues on a map. His poems were perhaps the more impressive of the two, as they were written in centuries old Spanish, but somehow still managed to rhyme when translated into contemporary English.
But what of our protagonists? What do Mikey Walsh and Wade Watts have in common, aside from being young, poor, and on the brink of being homeless?
How about a spiritual link with the deceased hunt creator, bordering on psychic knowledge of the significance of certain coins?
I won't go into detail about the coin in RPO in case some of you chose not to heed my spoiler warning, except to say that there is a seemingly innocuous coin, and it turns out to be significant.
In The Goonies, Mikey recognizes the significance of a certain tray of coins on One-Eyed Willy's table o' treasure, and warns his friends not to touch it. I was always a bit confused with that scene,
Mikey didn't really seem to have any reason for singling out those particular coins as something that should be left for Willy. There wasn't, in my recollection, any foreshadowing leading up to it.
But Mikey's selective reverence for Willy (Loot all the other shit you like. Just don't touch these arbitrarily selected coins.) seems to be vindicated later on when the Fratellis greedily scoop up Willy's special reserve of gold coins, and pay the dear price of grizzly deaths on rusty spikes.
Ha ha... just kidding. That totally doesn't happen. All Willy's coins do is, by means of an improbable feat of engineering, break down the walls of the cave and set his ship free. The Rube Goldberg machines were a perfect way of driving home a connection between Mikey and Willy, but it begs the question... Why the hell did Willy choose to rot in a cave until he died if he had an escape rigged up?
Getting back to the Fratellis, a ruthless group of thugs who are hellbent on murdering the protagonists and stealing the treasure by any dirty means they can.... Hang on a sec... Does this remind you of anyone?
The most important connection I observed comes at the end of both stories. And for that, I'm afraid I'll have to include some spoilers. So if you still haven't read Ready Player One, please don't scroll past this picture of Chunk...
I've already mentioned both protagonists' reverence for the legendary figure whose treasures they're each hunting for, but the similarities at the end of the books are even more specific.
Both Wade and Mikey actually get to meet their deceased heroes face to face... sort of. Wade meets a pre-programmed avatar of Halliday, and Mikey meets One-Eyed Willy's long-decayed corpse. They're both very emotional scenes, and both characters sort of symbolically become their hero's equal.
Halliday's avatar, Anorak, give Wade's avatar, Parzival, his robes. And in my favorite scene in The Goonies (perhaps not counting Chunk's confession scenes), Mikey tells One-Eyed Willy that he was the first Goonie.
What's my point? Why did I write this? I don't know. These thoughts occurred to me, and I didn't want to keep them to myself.
Am I accusing Ernest Cline of ripping off the plot of The Goonies? Certainly not. Ready Player One was a highly original and imaginative story, and I can't wait to read his upcoming book, Armada. As a writer of geek fiction, I hold him in the highest esteem, like he's my own One-Eyed Willy.
I wonder, however, if any of these same thoughts ever occurred to him while writing the book.
If you like your geek lit and pop culture references with a healthy side of swearing and fart jokes, give the books in my Caverns and Creatures series a try.