5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
This book. This book. I’ve never read anything so completely geeky, so packed full of pop culture references – whilst being so, so good.
As someone who relied on an online game, and the people I met on it, to get through a very tough two years, this book really resonated with me. Wade escapes into the OASIS because his real life is dreary, he lives in poverty – and the OASIS is the only way he can attend school. Even though he is poor and low-levelled in the game, life in there is better than life ‘out there’. And with his great knowledge of 80’s pop culture – an obsession of James Halliday’s – he starts working out clues for the location of the keys.
Normally, I would get annoyed at the amount of pop culture references thrown at me in a book. But they are so fundamentally part of the story here, and it is amazing that, with the amount of references there actually are, very few feel just chucked in for the sake of it. Practically every single one has some sort of meaning. And I am incredibly impressed by the amount of research Cline must have done, and how clearly passionate he is about that period in time.
The first half of the book or so goes past without much major action, but the story still flows well and is – most importantly of all – just great fun. Whether it is the way Cline writes, or the references to games, films etc that many readers will know and love, the whole story just seems so vivid and easily imaginable. Trying to work the clues out was fun – and I was so proud of myself when I instantly guessed the meaning of the clue for the Jade Key (hint: it helps to love your sci-fi!) – ages before Wade worked it out. [if you really want to see the spoiler, then click here]
All the characters felt pretty well-rounded, and there were some nice character ‘twists’. Wade starts out as a bit of sloppy, lazy boy, but develops into a determined young man, training himself both physically and mentally. Whilst he initially seems a bit of a wimp, he later proves to be a truly courageous in a moment of very risky espionage.
If you are a gamer, a fan of science fiction/fantasy, or 80s pop culture, then I cannot stress it enough: read this book. Unfortunately, what makes this book such a fantastic read for one group of people will most likely completely isolate it from non-gamers. But as a gamer myself, that doesn’t apply to me – and for that, I am glad.