Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when…POOF! the creator of the video game universe (quite literally) died. Just like that. James Halliday, died in 2044, born into an average world that slowly became more and more ugly. Many people, just to escape this brutal world and the reality of it, escape to the OASIS, which is a sprawling video game world Halliday built.
Teenager Wade Watts is no exception.
And, like many people, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the prize that lies hidden somewhere within the OASIS. It’s not that easy though. Halliday was a genius in his own right, and geniuses tend to difficult. (Or maybe he’s just another crazy). Anyway, he also hid a bunch of fiendish puzzles inside the maze, and even finding the puzzles is difficult. Everyone knows that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. 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 him and what is happening. His life is turned upside down as people attempt to sway him this way and that. He’s in an unstoppable race against people who are willing to commit very real murder in order to win the prize, and they won’t stop at that. But Wade has allies too now, friends even. Now the only way to return to normal is to win, but Wade will have to face the world he’s always tried to avoid in order to do so.
Have you ever watched Sword Art Online? No? Well that’s okay too, I guess. When I first saw this book, that’s what it reminded me of. Sword Art Online, which also has an amazing plotline, believable characters and an awesome story. I liked many thing about this book, and it didn’t stop at the fact that it’s pure geek heaven.
1) Wade himself and, of course, Art3mis. No, not just because she’s a fellow put-a-number-in-your-title-person. And it’s not Art-three-miss. It’s Artemis, guys. Wade and Artemis both had really funny and believable personalities. The strength in both of their personalities really shined through. The other characters were good. The major characters especially. I loved Ernest Cline’s focus on the major characters such as Aech and Shoto. There was a lot of complexity in the characters. The minor characters didn’t get much attention, but they served their purpose well. The protagonist is endearing, full of humor and has a pulse.
2) Puzzles in geekdom. This is related to historical fiction, but in it’s video-game likeness. Being a fellow coder and computer-lover, I liked the way Ernest Cline put relations in with real movies and fiction. It had a lot of clever stuff regarding the media world.
3) Real danger and adventure. The danger and adventure felt real, but the characters didn’t just break down and start crying like they do in some novels. There was a real sense of nervousness, confusion and reality in this story. The villians and their tactics seemed like they put Wade and the others in situations and corners they might actually attempt in real life if it was a real-life situation.
Overall, I think it was a four-star book. I would’ve liked to see a little bit more structure in it. Some complexity in the minor characters as well. I think it would be good to put in a more solid back-story as to how the world got to be so environmentally destructed. (No, I don’t mean the over-used “there was a terrible war” story). Trust me, Ernest Cline could definitely come up with something.
pg count for the hardback: 372