Wade Watts is your average Joe, living in a future that has been so degraded and damaged that the only escape for most is to log into the virtual world of the OASIS and live out their lives there. In the OASIS, the rules of the real world don’t apply. You can be whomever or whatever you want, do things that are impossible in the real world, and perhaps even escape your hellish life. The OASIS, created by genius James Halliday, is the only bright spot to Wade’s existence. Since the day Halliday died there has been a serious competition underway. Halliday has hidden an “Easter egg” (a hidden message or item) inside the virtual world and everyone is trying to find it. To find the egg will bring untold wealth and power, and for a young man who is anything but powerful and wealthy, the promise of finding the egg is too great to ignore. Wade, along with several other Egg Hunters, known as “Gunters,” has been searching the OASIS for this egg for five years. One day, an unexpected development and a few strokes of luck land Wade smack dab in the center of the competition. Now it’s only a matter of time until the egg is found and control of the OASIS is handed over to the winner. But Wade and his fellow Gunters aren’t the only ones who want the egg; there is a much greater and more powerful force in play that will stop at nothing to get it. Now Wade must decide if he wants to band together with a group of fellow Gunters or go it alone and risk the wrath of some very dangerous individuals. Breathtaking and highly original, this action-packed novel will have readers cheering, even as they marvel at the virtual world that’s being constructed around them.
When the buzz started going around with this book a few months ago, I felt that it would probably be a perfect read for my family because we are all sort of geeky technology lovers, and Lord knows that we would probably go into paroxysms of distress if our Internet was taken away. I decided to give a digital copy of this book to my son and daughter and grab an audio version for myself and my husband to listen to. We shared it over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and thought it would be really fun to write a bit of a joint review. Both Frank and I are big on the 80s, and having grown up during that time period, this book was the perfect choice for us, and as it turns out, the kids loved it as well. This review will be structured a bit differently than most of my others, with both Frank and I having one paragraph to ourselves in order to share our thoughts with you.
Heather: I had a great time with this one, and though there were places where the story moved a little slowly, most of the time I was greatly entertained by all the nerdy little 80s references and the slightly dorky coolness of Wade. I think the choice of Wil Wheaton as narrator was absolutely perfect. He had just the level of energy, inflection and emotion to make this a stellar audio production. While I enjoyed the worldbuilding of the OASIS, I would have loved to see more worldbuilding outside the virtual realm, but really, there was very little to complain about. It had the perfect proportion of action, intrigue and 80s flavor that was able to ensnare me into a nerdy little tangle and get my blood pumping. There wasn’t a lot of predictability to this tale, which I also enjoyed, and I had a lot of fun trying to figure out where Cline was going to lead me and where the story would eventually end up. It was a perfect choice for all those readers who self identify as geeks or nerds.
Frank: Speaking of self-identified geeks... Hello! While not an 80s freak by any means, I did live my teenage years in that decade and I have a lot of fond memories from that time. I’m also something of a technophile, always looking around the corner for the next fantastic technology. This novel was a stunningly adroit melding of those two interests. The OASIS is the ultimate virtual reality: a three-dimensional immersive tactile experience where almost anything is possible. The clues to finding Halliday’s Egg all revolve around 80s trivia, since he himself grew up during that time. Some I was familiar with but a lot was new to me, which created the perfect balance to keep things interesting. In addition to 80s trivia, there’s action, adventure, romance (not too much!) and enough geeky fantasy to keep the most discriminating nerd salivating. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
As you can clearly see by Frank’s reaction to this book, it’s a lot of fun for all types of readers that range through every level of the nerdy spectrum. What Cline was able to accomplish with this story goes way beyond a lot of other dystopians and cyber-themed books I’ve seen. It certainly was an immersive experience, and coupled with the fact that the narrative basically revolved around an immersive universe, everything about this book and these particular readers just gelled. A great read to share with that special geek in your life.