Yes, I only finished this book now. And boy, did I enjoy it.
Without giving too much away, this is a story about a young man living in an online-dependent world in the year 2044. Life is only partially lived in the real world where much of it is a wasteland and filled with, but most everyone around the world live their real lives online through a virtual world called the Oasis. The Oasis gives essentially gives everyone a chance to live out a different life than the one they have in the real world under the guise of their avatar. With enough credits, they can “travel” anywhere and do a whole lot more than what they’re physical selves can do.
And one of the creators of The Oasis has created a contest of a lifetime. The first person to solve the puzzles through the clues that he has laden with 80s references and you could win a mass fortune.
Wade Watts is one of those people. Author Ernest Cline lets us experience these challenges through Wade’s eyes, and he’s done an impressive telling of it for his debut novel. Wade is not unlike many people I know and have grown up with, especially when it comes to those who are fanatical about one thing or another, be it sports or games or movies. So, this kid is pretty relatable, and pretty likeable.
He doesn’t come across as arrogant or pitiful or vengeful, although he can be a bit obsessive, but in this story, that’s an advantage. Because the puzzles are ridiculously challenging and that’s what makes this story even more fun to read.
Being one who grew up in the 80s, all the 80s references, be it movies, video games, and even music, the inner child in me was ecstatic at seeing those references and being able to totally relate to Wade as well as his friends, all who’ve studied much of the 80s specifically for the contest. I’m not as crazy about the 80s as the Oasis creator, James Halliday, was. However, much movies and video games mentioned were very familiar to me because I loved them, too.
The good thing about that is that because I knew all these references so clearly in my mind. And this is definitely an advantage for me as a reader considering all that is referenced.
But there is more than just the challenges that Wade has to face. Outside and inside of the Oasis, he has to deal with not only other people searching for the same prize, but the friendships he’s formed, and his own personal challenges of just being someone who spends most of his time immerse in a virtual world.
There are many ways the future is interpreted and done so realistically. This is one of those ways, and as fun as some of what is described can be for us, it can also be scary in a way. As we continue to be more dependent on technology, it’s good to read stories like these to give even us adults little life lessons.
As much as I loved the nostalgia of recalling 80s pop culture, I was bothered by some of the lengthy infodumping, even though I understand it was probably quite necessary for those who had not actually lived through the 80s and are thus unfamiliar with all the references.
With that said, I appreciated the author’s appreciation for the 80s and highlighting the good stuff, because there obviously was good stuff that came out of it. Let us not forget the good stuff from our childhood!