Today I spent most of the afternoon re-reading this book on my Nook app on my phone, which I found to be a pleasant way to spend the day.
In the world of the late 2040s, life is nasty, brutish, and short, due to global warming and the demise of fossil-fuel technology. However, most people live most of their lives, or the portion of their lives not devoted to sleeping or working, to being online on OASIS, the globally networked virtual reality available to all; at a minimum, one gets an avatar for the price of twenty-five cents, a basic set of goggles, and a basic set of gloves. Thus equipped, one’s avatar can go to virtual school, attend virtual sporting events, do virtual shopping, or do virtual gaming, not to mention all things mentionable and unmentionable; the system is financed through transportation (getting your avatar from one virtual place, or planet, to another), or in buying either upgraded equipment to improve the interface to OASIS, or virtual equipment for whatever one wants one’s avatar to be doing. The reclusive inventor of OASIS, upon his death, set up an Easter Egg contest; through following clues, the first avatar to find the Easter Egg will inherit control of the inventor’s mega vast fortune, as well as ownership and control of OASIS. To this end, those hunting for the egg (called “gunters”) study the life and times of the inventor, hoping that by concentrating on what the inventor was fixated on (everything having to do with the video-game 1980s) they can find the Easter egg.
Wade Watts is a typical teenager; an orphan, living with an aunt who dislikes him, in the poverty of a trailer park outside of Oklahoma City (sixteen people to a trailer, with the trailers stacked to eight or twelve trailers high), he has a safe hideout in a pile of junked vehicles, from which he can get on OASIS to attend virtual school. He is a gunter, and in the five years that the contest has been going on (with no one discovering the first clue) he has been immersing himself in 1980’s music, books, films, video games, and anything else that the inventor of the OASIS was known to have thought important. His avatar, which looks pretty much like he does, wears the standard issue-Teenage Boy Avatar outfit of t-shirt and blue jeans; he is barely Level 3 in gaming, because to do gaming you transport to the sections of OASIS for gaming, which costs money, which he does not have; the only free place he can go is the School Virtual Planet. His best friend Aech (pronounced H), who also goes to Virtual School, maintains an invitation-only chatroom, and they play video games from the 1980s and otherwise. Quite by accident Wade finds the First Clue, and thus becomes the target of IOI, the giant conglomerate who would love to get their hands on control of OASIS.
This is a great young-adult book, and eventually will be made into a movie; let us hope that the movie is a decent recreation of the book.