That rating would be 4.5 stars, if only that were possible.
The year is 2044 and the world is a mess. We’re out of oil; famine and poverty are wide-spread as are crime and disease. Most people spend as little time as possible in the real world, instead living their lives in OASIS, a fantastical and limitless virtual world, created by James Halliday, the ultimate geek and software designer with a passion for the 1980’s, the decade in which he grew up.
Wade Watts is a teenager whose real life circumstances are desperate. Living on the top floor of a stack of mobile homes with an aunt who doesn’t want him and only allows him there for the food tokens he’s entitled to, he spends most of his time in his hide-out, logged into OASIS. That is where he goes to school, spends his free time and meets the few friends he has. And, for the past few years, that is where he, like millions of people, is on a treasure hunt.
When James Halliday died his will stipulated that the person who could find the three keys he had hidden in OASIS and open the gates connected with them would inherit his fast fortune. Ever since the terms of the will were made public millions have been trying to decipher the clue that should lead them to the first key, but after five years the hunt appears to be going nowhere. And then Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, finds the first key and unlocks the first gate. Suddenly everything changes. While others are hot on his heels, Wade finds the whole world interested in the person behind Parzival and while most of that interest is good-natured there are those who want to find the keys at all cost in order to change OASIS into something it was never meant to be.
Officially the real identities of avatars on OASIS should be secret, but as Wade soon discovers that is not actually the case. He finds himself threatened both in the virtual and in the real world, and when real people start dying he realises that he has far more on his hands than just the quest for the keys.
Parzival/Wade’s quest for the keys and the ultimate price will not only changes his life it will affect the whole world.
This is a book about and a must read for geeks, especially those who grew up in the 1980’s. Having said that, this was a fascinating read for me, who doesn’t qualify as a geek in any way shape or form.
Although I had a hard time getting my head around the idea of a virtual world as fast and integrated as OASIS and wasn’t always able to keep the virtual and the real world separate, I did find myself completely caught up in the story, the quest and all the references to the 1980’s.
In fact, for a large part it was all the links to the 1980’s that made the book so fascinating for me. Although I would know next to nothing about computer games during that (or any other) period, I got a great kick out of the movie and music references.
This is a very well written book. Nothing happens that doesn’t have significance at some (sometimes much later) point in the story. The story deals very well with the advantages and down-sides of living in a virtual world and the picture it paints of the real world in the near future is realistic enough to be scary. At the same time the book does a great job showing that no matter what environment you put them in, young adults have the same concerns, hopes and fears everywhere and at anytime. The characters of Wade and his friends make this a book about growing up as much as a fantasy about virtual living.