"I'm not crazy about reality, but it's still the only place to get a decent meal." Groucho Marx
The middle school I attended was a 1930s WPA project that by the 1970s was a lethal cocktail of toxic mold from the water leaks and cancer causing asbestos. I'm hoping, since several decades have passed, that all the nasty microbes I inhaled while conjugating verbs and wrestling with algebra have long since been frog marched out of my body. I was a rural kid and had to wait for the bus to come pick me up after school. The bus was always late which was a real pain in the ass for a scrawny kid like me who was trying to avoid the hulking, megalithic Hoover clan. They were massive, with beach ball bellies and Neanderthal brows. They had freckle specked Popeye arms and flaming red hair. They were full grown men in middle school with mustaches and sideburns. They liked to grab underweight kids by the neck and dangle them off the ground for entertainment.
A new pizza place opened across the highway. The pizza was passable, but I wasn't there for the pizza. When I walked in those doors I claimed sanctuary. It didn't take long for the owner to 86 the Hoover boys because he didn't want me to be interrupted putting quarter after quarter into this colorful black box called DEFENDER
If I were to get the high score the pizza guy would give me a slice. I soon learned that I could barter that slice for safe conduct onto my bus. It was worth the investment to buy a piece and watch the Hoover
men tear the slice into pieces nearly coming to blows in the process, although I probably could have brought them roadkill with similar results.
The place also had Asteroids which I loved as well, but my first love was Defender. I would only play Asteroids if someone was already playing Defender. Even while immersed in blowing up interstellar asteroids I would catch myself looking longingly over at Defender.
Yes, it was a whirlwind romance born out of a need for survival. When I moved to high school I would stop in once in a while, but I'd grown as a person and Defender...well...had stayed the same. Our romance had gotten away from us somehow and it was time for both of us to move on to other people like Molly Ringwald.
Yes, I know it is embarrassing to admit it now, but I, like a large majority of boys and a good percentage of girls, had a crush on Molly. She wasn't the best role model for girls and I paid the price for her influence. The girls I dated in high school were that much more a pain in the ass because Molly Ringwald was their idol from the clothes they wore to the way they talked. Is that the time period when High Maintenance
came into common usage? I wore a Members Only
jacket and wished like hell my parents had cable so I could watch MTV. It was always a struggle trying to be cool in Kansas in the 1980s.
Wade Watts, our hero, is an orphan. He was taken in by an aunt because she wanted the extra food vouchers. She doesn't share the food,a bit of a Dickens situation going on, which forces Wade to scramble for his own food supply. They live in these lovely stacked trailers on the outskirts of Oklahoma City.
"We lived in the Portland Avenue Stacks, a sprawling hive of discolored tin shoeboxes rusting on the shores of I-40, just west of Oklahoma City's decaying skyscraper core. It was a collection of over five hundred individual stacks, all connected to each other by a makeshift network of recycled pipes, girders, support beams, and footbridges. The spires of a dozen ancient construction cranes (used to do the actual stacking) were positioned around the stacks' ever expanding outer perimeter.
Living in this world of 2044 would have been horrible except for a man named James Halliday who had invented OASIS a sprawling virtual utopia
. You could live in the nastiest slag heap on the planet, but in OASIS, where you spent most of your time, you could build a paradise. When Halliday died he left a series of clues that created a world sensation. The first person to figure out the clues wins the Halliday fortune...$140 billion. Halliday was a fan of 1980s pop culture and built his clues around his love of that era. Those involved in the search have to become experts on everything 1980s. The dialogue of every John Hughes film, the man who brought us Molly Ringwald, must be memorized. They have to learn how to play vintage video games such as Defender, Asteroids, Joust and Pac-Man. They have to watch all the television episodes from that era searching for clues to the puzzle. They have to know Devo lyrics and the words to every other 1980s pop song. Needless to say, most of the population give up, and go back to other pursuits as the years pass without any breakthroughs.
Wade is determined and with the help of his best friend Aech pronounced H they continue to sift through archival material looking for that clue that will lead them to the next clue. When Wade finds the first clue and opens the first gate of the elaborate treasure hunt he becomes a world sensation, and draws the attention of the Sixers, the evil corporation intent on dominating OASIS. If they find the clues before Wade and his friends, and unlock the Halliday fortune, OASIS would be under their control.
During his quest, his online name is Parzival, Wade meets a girl. "It was Art3mis.
She wore a suit of scaled gunmetal-blue armor that looked more sci-fi than fantasy. Twin blaster pistols were slung low on her hips in quick draw holsters, and there was a long, curved elvish sword in a scabbard across her back. She wore fingerless Road Warrior-style racing gloves and a pair of classic Ray-Ban shades. Overall, she seemed to be going for a sort of mid-'80s postapocalyptic cyberpunk girl-next-door look. And it was working for me, in a big way. In a word:hot.
I'm such a sucker for boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. Cline mines this tried and true formula to perfection.
The reader is shotgunned with 1980s pop culture which I know has bothered some reviewers. I thought it was great. I've been listening to '80s music all week on my iPod because the book brought back memories of songs that I first heard on cassette tapes. I wasn't ever a gamer. My brief fling with Defender has been the only time I've spent any significant amount of time playing video games. To enjoy this book I don't think you have to be a connoisseur of vintage video games or have spent hours playing D&D, but I think those people with that background will enjoy it more because the references will ignite; hopefully, fond memories for them. If you pine for the 1980s you should definitely read this book. The plot was fascinating and kept the pages turning.
This book went viral in the collecting world. First edition, first printing are bringing $200. I read somewhere that the print run was 15,000 which is reasonably small. If a large percentage of the first printings were bought by libraries it could stay a much sought after collectible for years to come. If you have a first edition, first printing tuck it away somewhere safe. It could turn out to provide a really good return on your initial investment.
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