Don’t you find that so often, the books you really love completely sneak up on you. You pick up something one day, shrug and say to yourself, yeah, why not. And then suddenly you’re glued at the expense of everything else you’re trying to achieve.
So it totally was with this book.
My partner actually received this as a gift on leaving his work. He’s not much of a reader so I, sensing a potential reject, started to circle casually. Finally I picked it up one day and started the first chapter.
It’s such an incredibly detailed world. It’s set in 2044, and most of the world is a slum. The only thing lifting people is the OASIS, a virtual reality that has essentially taken over the internet. You go to school there, you socialise there, in fact, apart from eating and calls of nature, you pretty much never need to leave. There are worlds upon worlds, challenges and coins that enable you to gain wealth and status… and the entire ownership of the world is up for grabs.
The creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, left a puzzle behind when he died. Whoever could solve the initial riddle, and the games to come, would win the OASIS. At first the hunt is fierce; people dedicate their lives to it, calling themselves Gunters, but after a while the heat dies down and only the most dedicated remain, along with a corporation called Innovative Online Industries (IOI) who wish to win the OASIS and monetise it.
Suddenly, five years after Halliday’s death, Wade Watts (our protagonist) solves the first part of the puzzle and reignites the world’s excitement. The fight gets rapidly more dangerous…
This is a book with an incredibly detailed world, but despite the fact that the world is futuristic, the influences are overwhelmingly of the eighties. This is because Halliday’s obsessions were born of the eighties: films, music and games (computer and board). The book cleverly weaves this into the architecture of 2044, so that the world of the OASIS and the eighties are seamlessly linked. The puzzles are brilliantly thought out, and the writing just compels you forward, desperate to find out what happens next.
I’m not a computer game player – I can’t work the pads, especially if they involve a little joystick – and I didn’t even know half of the things Cline included from the eighties, but every time something cropped up I was familiar with it did give me a little buzz. I can’t imagine how over-excited a proper eighties geek would be by this stuff. The puzzle element was very tense, especially when IOI got involved, and every time Wade came up against a brick wall I couldn’t bring myself to put the book down.
The only thing that I wonder about is how on earth Ernest Cline can top this. There’s a second one called Armada in the offing which I am already excited about, but also afraid. Could this be done twice? I’m not sure.
On the plus side, there’s going to be a film!!!!!!