My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Despite the fact that I didn’t experience the 80’s, I was surprised by the number of references that I understood. Although this book is likely most enjoyable for people who grew up in that decade or teen boys who love video game/sci-fi/fantasy-elements, I believe that this story is accessible to everyone. It will appeal most to gamers and sci-fi fans. I wouldn’t want anyone to decide they don’t want to give it a chance because it was a really enjoyable book.
Beyond the incredible amount of 80’s references dropping over the course of this novel is the plot. The year is 2044 and the world spends most of its time inside OASIS, a virtual reality world that allows the masses to escape from the horrors of the real world. Upon the death of its creator, a contest is launched that could change someone’s life and the entire world becomes obsessed. Players are tasked with testing their knowledge and skills of the creator’s favourite era, the 80’s – upon completion of all tasks they win the creator’s entire fortune.
We are introduced to Wade Watts, a teen boy with a poor home life and lack of interest in school, but an overwhelming obsession with all things 80’s. He is our introduction to the world of OASIS and the wonders that it can hold. His life isn’t great and he’s not happy, but I never felt that he drew the book down with him. He recognized the way the world was and adapted to combat it. I felt that he was very easy to relate to and didn’t suffer from being the “Chosen One”.
I really enjoyed getting to know his friends in OASIS and felt that they were well developed. Each had their own struggles, flaws, and strengths. The way their relationships developed over the course of the novel felt authentic because they struggled and questioned. They were all competitors and didn’t know who to trust, yet at the end of the day, they put the well-being of everyone over their own success.
While sometimes I felt that the worlds being described were using the method of telling, rather than showing – overall I thought that the millions of worlds inside OASIS were detailed. I felt that I received enough information to see a detailed, yet rough structure of the world and then fill in most of the details myself. There were some scenes however that were very vividly described.
Overall, I was completely drawn into this book within a few chapters and didn’t want to put it down. I kept picking it up every opportunity that I had and just needed to know what happened next.