The year is 2044, and the world economies are struggling under an energy crisis and widespread unrest. The main character, Wade Watts, is a teenager living with his miserable aunt in a slum. (In this futuristic world where space is severely limited, neighborhoods are now rows of precariously stacked trailers.)
The one bright spot in Wade’s world, is the OASIS: a virtual reality that nearly everyone on Earth plugs into to escape their grim world. It’s through the OASIS that kids attend school (even in the world “run” by virtual reality, kids must pass their classes or they lose all of their OASIS access.)
OASIS was created by billionaire James Halliday, an avid 80’s pop culture and original videogame master. When he died, his will and last testament was a video called “Anorak’s Invitation”, (Anorak being the name of his online persona) and was released to the world. In the video he laid out the ultimate quest: hidden within the hundreds of worlds of OASIS, there were three keys; the three keys unlocked three challenges. Complete the challenges, and the winner inherited Halliday’s fortune, plus ownership of OASIS.
Wade Watts, who goes by Parzival (a slight tweak from Percival, an Arthurian knight who hunted for the Holy Grail), takes on Halliday’s challenge to unlock his fortune. While his “real” persona snoozes in the OASIS public school classroom, Parzival runs around the different worlds in the OASIS system, trying to find the three keys. In a virtual reality based around 80’s pop culture and obsolete videogames, Parzival is tested on his extensive gamer knowledge. He must stay ahead of the billions of other players, and also the IOI,or Innovative Online Industries. IOI is the world’s largest internet provider, and is willing to kill for the chance to take over OASIS.
This book is incredibly fun and engaging; it is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in several years. It is an adventure right from the start and Wade Watt’s self-deprecating humor will make you chuckle throughout the whole book.