It's the future, the world sucks, and humanity spends most of its time logged into the OASIS, a totally immersive virtual reality environment. It's no...moreIt's the future, the world sucks, and humanity spends most of its time logged into the OASIS, a totally immersive virtual reality environment. It's not just for gaming, it's for living. It's your social networking life, it's your business life, it's your love life (if you have one)...it's everything. One day the old dude who created the Oasis dies and leaves his entire fortune to one lucky Oasis user who can find an easter egg hidden somewhere in the Oasis.
Someone on goodreads described this book as a mix of The Westing Game and Snow Crash. This is a pretty great description, but unfortunately, the book, as fun as it is, is nowhere near as cool as Snow Crash. It also didn't really handle mixing action in the real world with action in a MMORPG nearly as well as something like Reamde.
But this book IS super fun. It's one huge homage to pop culture, geekdom, video games, and most especially the 1980s. Every other paragraph has some reference to an old 80s movie, some classic sci-fi or fantasy novel, or some old school video game or cartoon. It was 400 pages of nostalgia overload. And the challenges that the characters had to go through were predictably awesome: getting top scores on classic video games, acting out and quoting dialogue from classic geek movies and even playing through classic video games in a first person immersive live action setting. I actually think the movie challenges could make it as a real video game, a la guitar hero/rock band.
The geek references were a bit over the top at times though. I remember someone once described the Lord of the Rings movies as a bunch of people walking around naming things for three hours. And I was reminded of that while reading this book. At times I wondered whether I was actually enjoying a well written interesting book, or whether Cline had carefully constructed a novel to stimulate the pleasure centers in my brain by name dropping everything I've ever seen, watched, played or listened to. At one point I even went through an existential crisis as I realized that my varied interests and obsessions did not make me a beautiful and unique snowflake, but just some sort of 80s inspired geek trope. I also thought that Cline's sporadic attempts to describe the state of the world outside the Oasis ended up being a bit of a mess. He tried to drop in bits and pieces of info without the focus of the story being on the outside world, but reading it, it only made me long for the kind of beautiful story telling and subtle world building that someone like Margaret Atwood can do (see: Oryx and Crake).
But still, all said and done, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I struggled with whether to give it a 4 star rating on the merits of its enjoyment factor, or a 3 star rating on the actual objective quality of the book. I went with the 3 star rating, but I highly recommend this to anyone who loves geek culture and/or the 1980s!
p.s. - In the future, Wil Wheaton is the president of the internet. (less)