It’s 2044 and the world is a mess. Wars, famine, unrest, depleted resources, you know the usual dystopian societal and geopolitical ills. In this world, jobs and opportunities are scarce, resources even more so. It’s a hard, ugly life for the majority of people. The bright spot is OASIS, a virtual world that everyone, and I mean everyone, is a part of. Just to participate is free to all. It’s a gigantic, global virtual world where you can be whatever you want to be, your avatar is everything. You can go to school and work your job through the network, too.
17-year-old Wade lives in “The Stacks” just outside of OKC. It’s literally what it sounds like, trailer house upon trailer house, stacked up one on top of the other, sometimes 20 or more high. His parents are gone and he lives with his aunt in a cramped little trailer house and his only life, his only release is as his avatar Parzival, as he works his way through the puzzles set forth by the creator of the OASIS, the uber rich gaming mogul, James Halliday. Halliday stipulated in his will that his fortune was to be given to the first person who can find an “Easter egg” hidden somewhere in the OASIS. The catch? Every clue is steeped in video gaming lore, computer geekery and 80’s pop culture.
On this quest, Parzival and his friends (and sometimes rivals), Art3mis, Aech, Daito and Shoto must complete this complex series of puzzles as the world watches, trying to stay one step ahead of the evil empire of the Sixers, the minions of the corporation that is seeking to take control of OASIS. It’s not just about winning a fortune, it’s keeping OASIS free and open to all.
I’m not a gamer but I was alive and breathing in the 80’s, so even if I didn’t tumble to all the insider gaming jokes and lore, there was still plenty for me to enjoy and geek out on (a whole gaming planet based on Rush’s 2112 album? AWESOME!). There’s intrigue, unrequited love, humor and high stakes action. What more do ya want?
I screened/read this book two ways: Wil Wheaton’s highly enjoyable narration and on Kindle. Seemed appropriate.