Saturday, February 18, 2012


Wow! What a ride! This is definitely one of the coolest books I've read in a while. It's an action-packed, science fiction book bursting with 80's culture.

Wade Watts is living in the year 2044, and the world is a pretty depressing place. Hunger, disease, poverty are rampant. Wade is living with his aunt, since his parents both died. However, she's not exactly loving. She only took him in to get extra food vouchers. He also has to hide his meager possessions or his aunt's bully boyfriend will snag them to pawn. The trailer they live in is stacked about twenty high in a strange ghetto like community called "the stacks."

So, you can see that escaping the real world is the number one priority for Wade. Since it's 2044, the escape is a pretty elaborate virtual reality called the OASIS. The OASIS is a virtual world created by a legendary game designer. The world is filled with planets, each with a variety of fun to be had. You can go on quests and other video game adventures or you can simply live, shop, and socialize.

When the legendary designer James Halliday dies, he leaves an unusual will and testament. The entire world watches as the video is played of Halliday launching the most epic "easter egg" hunt ever. He explains that he's hidden three keys in OASIS. When a gamer reaches the keys, they will reveal clues to ultimately reach the egg. The reward for reaching the egg first is his entire fortune. This creates a whole culture of egg hunters, called "gunters" hunting after this easter egg. Wade Watts is the one to find the first key.

Halliday was obsessed with 80's, since that's when he grew up. So all the gunters study the TV, movies, comic books, mangas, and most of all, the video games of the decade. Halliday most certainly will require knowledge of 80's culture to decipher the clues needed to reach the egg.

I dare anyone who grew up in the 80's to read this and not be totally hooked! The references are hilarious and totally recognizable. Plus, the OASIS virtual world created is fascinating. Sometimes you forget that the character is inside an imaginary world. It's mind-bending to think that while Wade is traveling to different planets (some designed to look like science fiction worlds like Arrakis, Star Trek, Middle Earth) that he's doing it all in a fake world.

This is not only action-packed, but also intriguing to consider whether some of this technology may be in our future. The 80's culture made me smile and laugh out loud. The history of arcade video games was also fascinating. It brought back memories of playing Pac-Man and Defender at the skating rink. The whole book feels vaguely familiar, but also strikingly original. The author did a brilliant job of weaving the 80's culture without it taking over or becoming gimmicky. It's truly a part of the story in an authentic way.

Trust me, you will LOVE this. You won't be able to put it down! And after reading, you'll be dying to take a trip to the arcade. For real.

It is an adult book. In fact, it won the ALA ALEX Award, which is an award for adult books that appeal to older teens.

Check out the book trailer. I think it evokes some of the "old school" feel. Although, I wish it was a little longer and included some of the 80's music from the book. Check out the author's website here.