It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt–among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life–and love–in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?
It is REALLY hard for me to collect my thoughts on this book into any sort of reasonable order. You see, I loved this book something fierce. I lost count of how many times I squealed with utter glee, listening to Wil Wheaton’s flawless narration of this gem while driving around in my car. Let me see.
Let’s get this out of the way first: what I didn’t like.
This book starts off slow, and it took quite a long time to convince me that I was going to like it. Over an hour into the narration and nothing had really happened yet, because Wade was still filling me in on all the setup. This turned out to be a lot of info-dumpage, and I was starting to get annoyed.
When things finally started rolling, I was undoubtedly hooked, and I was actually quite glad for all the setup that had to happen before we could really get going. By the end of the book, that 90 minutes of setup seemed so far in the distant past — a mere moment in the grand scheme of things — that I pretty much forgave it. But still. Be ye warned: give it time, because once it gets going, you won’t want it to stop.
One more small note, because I’m a buzzkill: there are some bits that I found a bit hard to believe. Mostly this is in regard to the amount of time Wade supposedly had to research (and memorize) the vast quantities of books, movies, TV shows, video games, etc. But I guess we’ll let that slide. My husband didn’t find it quite as hard to believe as I did.
Now, for all the good stuff (and there is a LOT).
Honestly, folks, I don’t even know how to organize my thoughts here. I just think of this book and it’s like a big OMGGGGGGGG in my brain. Let me try again. With a bullet list.
- As I already said, the narration is freaking superb. Wil Wheaton was an excellent choice for this job. He’s obviously a gamer and very familiar with much of the pop culture referenced in the book, and this shines through quite evidently in his narration. I was even impressed by his pronunciation of the Japanese names and terms in the book.
- The overall story is epic, adventurous, and ingenious. I loved every minute of Wade’s adventure. Every obstacle he faced, every person he spoke with, every bit of futuristic technology described. I have no idea how much time Ernest Cline spent researching all of the various pop culture items and references in the book, but it is chock full of nostalgia.
- As a gamer, this book felt like home. It was easy to understand and visualize a lot of what happened in this book, because it was familiar territory for me. Some of the conversations Wade had with other characters, and some of the situations they got themselves into, had me giggling with delight because they were so spot-on. That being said, it is definitely not a requirement to have any sort of gaming experience to enjoy this book!
- As a child of the ’80s and ’90s, the pop culture references were a fun bonus. Notice I said bonus. While I did recognize many of the references made in this book (which is always fun, isn’t it?), I still feel like it was written so that those who weren’t alive to experience these things first-hand were not left in the dark. It’s one of those things where you can get all excited when you recognize what he’s talking about, you know?
I don’t even know what else to say. I loved it. I loved this book so much that it’s now one of my top favorites. I made my husband listen to it and he gobbled it up and loved it too (He’s significantly young er than me, from a different generation, and he still enjoyed this despite not recognizing all of the pop culture references — see?)! If you haven’t read this book, please do! And if you like audiobooks, or want to give them a try, this is definitely the one to choose!