And, if you get my title reference, then you are the target audience for this novel, which is a fun read so chock full of 80’s references that it made my teeth ache. It’s a great set-up. It’s the year 2044 and teenager, Wade Watts, lives in the future version of a trailer park (only imagine all the trailers stacked on top of each other), trying to stay out of the way of his abusive aunt, who would love to sell his computer to buy drugs. Luckily, Wade has a number of ways to escape this sad existence—an abandoned van that serves as his “real” home, the virtual world, OASIS, that most people spend a lot of time in since 2044 is a pretty dreary place, and school, which just happens to be located in OASIS, where he has friends that he has never met in person, only as avatars.
One thing that many people dream about, and Wade is no exception, is solving the puzzle/quest/game that the creator of OASIS, James Halladay, left behind after his death. The person who finds three “keys” hidden in this virtual world will not only inherit Halliday’s fortune but also (shades of Willy Wonka) gain control of OASIS itself. Halladay came of age in the 1980’s so Wade, like all his fellow gunters (term for those who are obsessed with searching for the keys) has become an expert on all things 80’s—from video games to music to movies to television shows.
Our story begins as Wade discovers the first key, the first person to do so, and then the race/quest is on. Can Wade get to the next key before an evil corporation, with thousands of minions in its employ, who wants complete control of OASIS so it can monetize everything?
I read this novel over a month ago so a lot of the specifics have started to fade but my overall impression was that while this didn’t rock my world writing-wise (pacing and characterization are a little clunky), it was just so much fun that I didn’t care. If you think you’d like a book that name checks everything from Rush to War Games to “insert obscure video game title here,” then this one is definitely for you.