Reviewed by Rita
OASIS is a massive multiplayer online game that has become part of the daily lives of most everyone on Earth in the year 2040. The eccentric creator of OASIS, James Halliday, has died leaving behind a video message to the world that he has hidden an Easter egg in the virtual utopia and the first person to find it will inherit his multibillion dollar fortune and control of OASIS. He ends the video with a riddle to begin the contest:
Three hidden keys open three hidden gates
Wherein the errant will be tested for worthy traits
And those with the skills to survive these straits
Will reach The End where the prize awaits
The quest for Halliday’s fortune quickly becomes a global obsession. Weeks pass with no one finding even the first of the three keys. Then months pass, and then years. Interest in the hunt wanes and Halliday’s estate becomes little more than urban legend. Finally, after five years, the first key is finally found.
The finder is Wade Watts, an eighteen year old high school student living in Oklahoma City, With the first gate unlocked, the search for Halliday’s treasure is renewed—and search for Wade is beginning. The biggest threat to Wade comes from Innovative Online Industries, the world’s largest internet provider, which wants control of OASIS for themselves and intend for Wade to help them find it, whether he wants to or not.
Halliday was obsessed with 1980’s pop culture so the book contains a multitude of references to 80’s video games, movies, music, TV shows, and fads. As a child of the eighties this was one of the initial draws for me, however, there were points in the book where the abundance of pop culture references seemed a little superfluous.
I was surprised to find after reading that this was Ernest Cline’s debut novel. His writing drew me in from the very first page and held my attention throughout. There was plenty of action and interesting characters to keep the plot moving forward. While this novel is classified as science fiction, it’s not hard to imagine the world being as Cline describes in the not too distant future. People have jobs, attend school, even meet and marry inside the virtual world without any real world contact. I feel like this book is more than just an entertaining sci-fi fantasy, it’s also a cautionary tale of what could become of humanity if we are not careful.