If you ever stepped foot into a video arcade during the 70’s, 80’s or early to mid-90’s this book is for you. Regardless if you like the sci-fi elements or modern dystopian books, the nostalgia alone will draw you in and not let you go. I loved this book. I listened (re-listened) to the audio version narrated by Wesley Crusher himself Will Wheaton. He isn’t the most skilled narrator and he reads the book to you rather than making it a performance. It doesn't pull you out of the story which is the most important aspect for any narrator. I’m not sure you could find another book with the perfect balance of nostalgia and new interesting tech set in a dystopian future. Cline created a realistic dystopia with a great hero to guide us through a fantastic story.
We start with an overview of the world and the setting. We find our main character Wade getting ready to go to school. It’s school in the modern age. He logs into an virtual reality(VR) machine and appears at his high school online in the OASIS. OASIS is the virtual game world. It also has everything from schools to churches for people to partake in. It has games and quests like modern day MMORPG, just on a grander scale. Virtual reality has been perfected, but modern society is in tatters. Cities are crowded with energy and food shortages. It is a bleak world, but everything is escapable in the OASIS. People flock to the OASIS to run from the troubles of the real world. Our main character Wade is no different. He is a socially awkward teen with no real friends or family.
Wade is a Gunter, a person in the OASIS who has devoted the last five years to trying to find secret Easter Eggs the creator, James Halliday, left in the OASIS upon his death. The person who finds the egg gains control of Halliday shares of his company, and inherits his fortune. This really does give the novel a Willie Wonka feel. Wade is an impoverished boy with the hope and dream of improving his station by winning the grand prize. To find the egg Wade has to immerse himself in 80’s culture. He has to know all of Halliday’s favorite games, movies, TV-shows, music, and books. He plays classic Atari games non-stop and watches classic 80’s TV shows and movies. Two of his favorites are Ladyhawke and Family Ties. In five years no one has found the egg. Wade makes a breakthrough and finds the first key to unlock the egg and gets our story rolling.
Once Wade finds the first key others do as well and it is a race to unlock the next two keys and gates. The first gates trial is fantastic. I want/need them to invent this type of game, I would play it non-stop. Wade is transported into a movie. He has to quote the lines, and perform the actions of the actor to gain points. If he doesn’t he loses points. This would be a fantastic game. I would probably become a reclusive hermit and play it all the time. After Wade clears the main gate he is approached by the main protagonist. The villain in the novel is an evil corporate internet service provider who hopes to find the egg first and gain control over the OASIS so they can slap adds on every service in the VR world. The face of the ISS, Nolan Sorrento, is a little cartoony and one dimensional, but makes for a great person to hate.
The challengers and clues escalate, along with Wade’s relationships with his friends who are also hunting for the egg. Wade slowly begins to realize how sad his existence is, and that he wants more out of life than living in the game. He grows up, and Cline does a good job of capturing teenage angst and coming of age. It is instantly relatable, or will be for those of us who are nerds. The only negatives I can find in the book are a few instances of inconsistencies. At one point Wade makes a point to explain that he can’t afford to miss anymore school, and then a few chapters’ later Wade states he had enough credits to graduate and hadn’t been back in weeks. I also glazed over the musical reference, but that’s because I’m not much of a music geek. I appreciate Rush, just not a band I fawn over.
The book is soon to be made into a movie, and Steven Spielberg is attached to direct. This should make it fan-freaking-tastic. It is a great novel, and with Spielberg at the helm it should make for an excellent film. It will be at least an original work. If you like the 80’s and dystopian settings you must read this book.
Cline has his second novel coming out, Armada, this month on July 14, 2015. Check it out too J
My Rating: Worth Re-Reading Multiple Times