Wade Watts is obsessed with a virtual world called the OASIS. He spends most of his time in the game searching for “the egg,” a prize that could make him a multi-billionaire. After years of searching, he finally figures out a clue to the egg’s whereabouts, but when other players learn about the information he’s uncovered, the game becomes deadly in a very real way.
This book is so much fun. It’s crazy and intense and unpredictable and hilarious. It’s one of the most imaginative novels I’ve read this year. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it because it’s full of 70s and 80s pop-culture references. I was born in the late 80s, so I wasn’t sure if I’d understand the references, but I shouldn’t have worried. Not understanding the references didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book in any way. After the first few chapters, the pacing picks up so much that I stopped caring about pop-culture. I just wanted to find out who reaches the egg first.
Both the OASIS virtual world and the dystopian real world are well-developed and believable, but the characters are the best part of the book. They’re snarky, and they have very distinct personalities. My favorite part is when Wade meets his online friends in real life for the first time. A few of his friends are nothing like their online avatars.
I do have to admit that I had a difficult time getting into this book. I seriously considered quitting after the first few chapters. I think that had to do with the author’s writing style. I get the impression that Ernest Cline is more of a storyteller than a writer. The plot, characters, and setting are fabulous, but the writing itself is disappointing. It’s very bland. The beginning of the book is mostly info-dumping and backstory. My eyes glazed over many, many times. I just couldn’t stay interested or absorb the information I was being given. This led to me getting confused several times later in the story. I had to go back and skim the beginning to figure out what I’d missed.
The book does get much better toward the middle. I’m so happy that I didn’t give up. After the painful beginning, the story becomes thoroughly entertaining, and there is a lot for the reader to learn from it. Virtual reality is great, but it’s still no match for the real world.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys videogames and has the stamina to slog through slow starts. It’s totally worth the effort.