In a dystopian future, 2044, the world is a crumbling mess, with most people incredibly poor. Wade Watts is an orphaned teen who essentially lives online via the OASIS, a virtual reality construct that’s more appealing than the real world. He attends high school there and has one friend, who shares his love of a mysterious competition in which the creator of the online has placed clues to a huge fortune within the worlds online. Many people have spent years looking for the clues to the whereabouts of the fortune, including an evil corporation who want to use it to gain control of the OASIS, and use it to make money and control people’s data, and worse.
Wade has no hope of changing his fortunes, either in the real world or online, until one day he finds the first clue. It’s a race against time to find the clues and reach the end before others do, and to beat the evil corporation who will do anything to get control.
I picked this book up because I’d heard a bit about it, and it’s being made into a film. It piqued my curiosity. It’s essentially a book about gaming, and about a kind of mystery within a game. But it’s laced with all kinds of 80’s motifs, which is really fun. A lot of the dialogue and situations will be familiar and appeal to gamers, which also might put some of you off.
I found the book well paced, with little bits of the story coming together, and a great sense of tension and danger. It felt quite realistic and believable, and I liked the 80’s references. I think the success of this book rests on the solid creation of the characters. The bad guys are really awful, and yet believably so, while the main character is likable and smart. I liked that because his friends are online, he’s not sure what they really look like, and yet the relationships still feel solid. And there’s a nice balanced romance with another online player that’s really lovely too, without being mawkish. Perhaps the book is a little long, and being all about gaming and the online world, it’s not going to appeal to those of you who aren’t into that world, but it is a great story.
Read It If: it’s one for those of you who love gaming, sci fi, dystopian futures and young adult fiction. Or fans of the 80’s, because of all those references. A good adventurous plot line.