Summary: A classic young adult quest novel based in 2044, but built on 1980s culture. A fun book for both adults that lived the 1980s and teens that were years from being born.
My Sister-in-Law introduced me to this book. Published last August it was several lists of the best of 2011, but I had not heard of it until her recommendation.
Wade is living in 2044. The US has degenerated into lawlessness. The world economy is in ruins because of huge shortages in oil, energy, water and food.
The world is falling apart, but there is one consolation, Oasis. The Oasis is an immersive online world. Most people now live more in the Oasis than in the real world. Students go to school in the Oasis, adults work in the Oasis, everyone escapes reality in the Oasis.
The creator of the Oasis is James Halliday. Five years before the start of the book, Halliday died and left his enormous fortune and the entire company to whomever solves his puzzle. Wade (his avatar is named Parzival in the Oasis) and many others have made it their goal to solve the puzzle. It is their lottery, their work, their only hope.
But it has been five years and no one has solved a single part of the puzzle yet. IOI, a huge international company (and evil), has dedicated a division to solving the puzzle and taking control of the world economy.
What makes this book so fun is its cultural references. Halliday was a child of the 1980s. So everyone assumes that as a game designers and pop culture lover, the puzzle will primarily revolve around the 1980s culture, music, movies and video games. The whole world had reverted back to the 1980s.
I have never been a gamer but I did grow up in the 1980s. If you are a geek that loves early video games and movies and music, it will help you enjoy the book, but it is not required.
This is mostly a young adult book. There is a quest, love and the main character has to find himself and discover what is important. There is a small amount of sexual references and some language that would make it inappropriate for a young teen, but most people will very much enjoy the fun of the book.
The background message of the book is the balance of using the power of the internet for good while maintaining real life interaction and the problems of a culture built around entertainment and escape. This would potentially make a great movie.
It is also narrated by Wil Wheaton as an audiobook. Wheaton is an excellent narrator and that lead me to a variety of other authors because I started listening to books because Wheaton narrated them.