It's 2044, and as a result of the energy crisis, the world has basically gone to pot. That's okay, though, because most people spend their lives in OASIS, a virtual utopia where you can be whomever and whatever you want. Five years before, the creator of OASIS died and as his dying act set up a contest: be the first one to find the Halliday "Easter Egg" hidden within OASIS and you will inherit Halliday's fortune of billions of dollars. Wade is a "gunter," one of those obsessed with the contest, and with Halliday, which means he's into all of Halliday's interests: the games, movies, TV shows, and music of the 1980s. Wade is the first one to find the first key, setting him on a path of fame and fortune, unimaginable for a kid from the stacks (cities of mobile homes piled on top of each other). But, as he delves deeper into the contest, he finds friends and allies and makes enemies who will go so far as to kill him in real life in order to get to the prize.
Unlike most books, there is a litmus test for whether or not you'll like this one. Read the following paragraph:
"I made my big entrance when I arrived in my flying DeLorean, which I'd obtained by completing a Back to the Future quest on the planet Zemeckis. The DeLorean came outfitted with a (nonfuctioning) flux capacitor, but I'd made several additions to its equipment and appearance. First, I'd installed an artificially intelligent onboard computer named KITT (purchased in an online auction) into the dashboard, along with a matching red Knight Rider scanner just above the DeLorean's grill. Then I'd outfitted the car with an oscillation overthruster, a device that allowed it to travel through solid matter. Finally, to complete my '80s super-vehicle theme, I'd slapped a Ghostbusters logo on each of the DeLorean's gull-wing doors, then added personalized plates that read ECTO-88."
If you get (and smile/grin/laugh at) more than half the references in it, Cline will have you -- like he had me -- eating out of the palm of his hand. It's one part Dungeons and Dragons adventure, one part morality tale (but not until the very end, so it doesn't get in the way) and three parts homage to the pop culture of the 1980s.
And after you finish, we'll pour some Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters, cue up a John Hughes movie and reminisce.
Review by Melissa Fox