Publishing Date: January 1st, 2011
Genre: Adult, Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA Crossover appeal
Pages: 372 pgs
Source: bought at Chapters
Summary from Goodreads:
It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune- and remarkable power- to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved- that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt- among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life- and love- in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?
This was my first book of the year and it set the bar high for 2015. I absolutely adored this book. It is set in the future where everyone seems to be plugged into a virtual reality world called OASIS. Other than needing to eat, drink, sleep and go to the washroom some people spend all their time in the game world. When the creator of the world dies he leaves a large fortune to whomever can win a huge digital scavenger hunt. These hunts involve knowing quite a bit of 80s trivia and pop culture. I had heard a lot about this book online and everyone who has read it seems to love but I went into this book slightly hesitant. I am not a big video gamer and the idea of spending all your time plugged into virtual reality freaks me out. The enthusiasm for this book from its readers is what drew me in.
First of all, let's talk about Wade. He is the main character of this book and he is essentially a poor orphan boy. He "lives" with his aunt in a modern trailer park. By live I mean that he spends as little time as humanly possible there because she is not exactly warm and fuzzy. His end goal is to win the contest and help move up in the world. This means that he spends quite a bit of time online but his problem is that this online world requires a decent amount of money. You can't help but really fall for Wade. He is a loner and has to overcome a lot of adversity. As you read, you are standing on the sidelines cheering him on. I also really enjoyed seeing how his relationships developed and grew with his online buddies. This is pretty close to home because I have made a lot of friends this way. There are people that you meet through book blogging that do not live close by and that doesn't make a difference at all. You are able to form relationships based on your shared common passion for reading. Well take that idea and translate it to Wade and his shared common passion for all things Halliday, 1980s and gaming.
The author highlights the problem of the growing gap between the rich and the poor. This future is not one that is highly improbable. I feel like it's not unrealistic to think that in several years from now there will be people that are unable to overcome their poverty because the rich hold all the power. In this novel things are extrapolated slightly and those with the most money essentially manipulate things in order to get what they want. That being said, it was nice to see that even those with the most money and power aren't able to just waltz in and take what they want in the game. They need the skill and smarts to do so as well. That's why Wade is such a lovable character.
Being someone who was born in the 1980s (yes- I am old!), I loved all the 80s references in this book. It was nostalgic and I found myself smiling during most of it. Overall, this book is very well crafted and it's also one that you won't be able to set down. It didn't take me long to plow through this because I wanted to know what was going on. You are able to try to figure out these puzzles right along with Wade if you're familiar with 80s pop culture.
I have to say that I am hopeful that this is not the way our society is going. I do not want to be one of those people who live in an artificial gaming world. It would be a shame to not go outside and enjoy the little things in life. The fresh air on your face, the sound wind blowing through the leaves on trees, the personal connections. One of my favourite things to do is people watch and that would be a much more boring thing to do if everyone is jacked into the web. No more spying on what people are reading. No more smiles as you pass by a stranger. While the internet has brought me some of my dearest friends- Ottawa bloggettes I'm looking at you!- I'd still miss being unplugged. A balance is definitely needed.
If you haven't read this book please go out and pick it up! It is currently on my favourites list. 5 out of 5.