Okay, so yes, I’m a little late this particular bandwagon.
My brother told me about this book months ago, so I, naturally, procrastinated getting it, because that’s just what I do.
But holy freaking frick, y’all. Once I finally cracked it open (so to speak) I couldn’t put it away.
If you enjoy massive amounts of ’80’s references, if you like the thought of living in a virtual reality, or if you like watching the underdog take on The Man, then this is definitely the companion for you!
This story starts on the edge of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, mere decades in the future. We follow the narrative of a Wade Watts, a teenager growing up in “the stacks”, which are common by this time. The Stacks are exactly what they sound like, mobiles homes and even vans, stacked one on top the other, in badly built scaffold like structures. Both parents are dead and he must survive while living with his aunt and multiple other people in one tiny, cramped trailer house, while also scheming ways to stay connected to the OASIS.
The OASIS, the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation, is basically a virtual reality world. If you have access to WiFi, you can get into OASIS. Like our main man Wade, you can go to public school in the OASIS, you can go on “quests”, and if you have money, you can visit other worlds with in the OASIS. Any type of world you can imagine, they have it. As with any type of interactive games, you have an avatar and a screen name.
What makes this story so much fun, it the fact that we do not know any more than the main character.
The creator of the OASIS has passed away. From what we can glean from in between the lines, we can assume this man, James Halliday, was somewhere on the autistic spectrum. We know he had no heirs. He had no wife or husband. He was isolated and had only one good friend.
Before passing away, Halliday created an Easter Egg somewhere in the OASIS. In his video that launched on the day he died, he explains the rules and clues to find this egg. Anyone who has ever done quests, either on home console games or in online interactive games, knows all about Easter Eggs and the adventures to find them. Halliday even added extra motivation to find his Easter Egg. Whoever finds the Easter Egg, wins his OASIS empire and massive amounts of wealth.
Obviously, most people would love to have this type of power and wealth. The poor kid living in The Stacks in Oklahoma, the mid-20’s trying to make ends meet, and also the mighty corporations who want to monopolize this new way of living.
Halliday goes on to explain that the players must find three different keys, to open three different doors, that will all give clue to send you to the Easter Egg. Whoever first gets this Easter Egg, wins the empire.
So that’s the premise of the story. Poor kid does his very best to survive in absolute poverty, has to get creative to even finish his high school diploma, let alone find an Easter Egg that could hand his billions and an entire online Empire, while outrunning the corporations who want nothing more than to take over every single facet on the virtual world. So where does the 1980’s come in? Well, Halliday grew up in the 1980’s, and has always expressed his love for everything from John Hughes movies to Atari and one of the first Apple computers. Riddled through out this story is every song you loved from the era, clothing styles that take you back, movies and tv shows you almost forgot about, and technology that paved the way for us to have what we have today.
My only complaint with this story is the amount of descriptive writing involved. Just like some Anne Rice books, I don’t need to know what color the flowers are on the wallpaper unless it’s pertinent to the story. There are some places where the majority of the chapter is simply description or explanative words. Yes I understand Ernest Cline needs his audience to understand this world that came from his head. But I feel there is a certain amount of trust you should give your readers to be able to intelligently infer certain aspects.
BUT, if you can’t stand the thought of reading all this yourself, you can always get the audiobook. Bonus to this? It’s read by Will Wheton. You’re welcome.