I would say, at the heart of Ready Player One, there is a tension between the post-appocalyptic dystopia of reality and the escapism in the digital universe. This is intertwined with warnings about corporate capitalism running amuck and the dangers this represents to the public good.
From the very beginning of the book, Wade lives his life in the virtual world (as do most people, given just how dystopic and miserable reality has become). The book proceeds to detail the unfolding race against time to determine who will gain control of the OASIS—a competition against corporate interests looking to seize control and monetize the technology.
However, it's notable that, throughout the book, Wade seeks to start a relationship with Art3mis, one of his allies/competitors within the context of that digital race. In the process, that relationship and that human connection itself becomes more significant and more real than the digital world, and through it, Wade (by the end of his journey) has...
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