I'm probably repeating things you have already heard if I tell you that this should have been the last book I would have fallen in love with. Classified as sci-fi dystopian about a video game? Really? But hey, EW put it on its Must List. People who were not even children of the '80's, people who were not even gamers, LOVED this book.
And as always with me, the final straw. A narrator for the audio that is hard to resist - Wil Wheaton. Come to mama. I was told by those in the know that the audio was the way to go.
That is nice rhyme.
This puppy rocked my ever-lovin' geeky 1980's mall hair heart.
Synopsis: It is 2044, and the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, as it is wont to do in dystopia. There has been an economic implosion and an energy crisis that has left most Americans struggling, if not for OASIS, a massive online world where people can socialize, attend school, and earn a living, without ever leaving their living room.
OASIS was the brainchild of two eccentric and antisocial entrepreneurs, one of whom has recently died of cancer. An apostle of all things '80's, James Halliday has left his legacy of a gazillion dollars to the one person who can follow a series of clues and challenges within OASIS, testing their knowledge of '80's pop culture, and win the "game".
Enter Wade Watts, an over-weight, acne-pocked, orphaned teenager who prefers to spend all of his time in OASIS, where he is the savvy and buff "Parzival". He has dedicated his life to studying James Halliday and is an adept gamer, so why not give this challenge a go? It sure would be nice to have food to eat and a place to live that didn't involve his abusive aunt and her various boyfriends.
The only trouble is that everyone else wants to win too, and the race is on. Not all the participants are reclusive teenagers. Some are ruthless members of a conglomerate that owns half the world already, and will stop at nothing, even murder, to win.
My thoughts: Ernest Cline, I AM YOUR TARGET READER! I graduated from high school in 1984. I spent weekends with my sister and BFF in the arcades playing Pac Man, Tempest, Dig Dug, Burger Time, Q-Bert, and Gallaga. Hell, my husband and I still have an old Nintendo. I listened to Rush (especially 2112), with my impressionable mind being blown away with this whole story-on-an-album idea. I loved the classic movies like War Games, Back to the Future and Ferris Bueller. Additionally, I am now the mother of a gamer son, who amazes me on a daily basis when he tells me about the things he does in his games...his gates, easter eggs, and missions.
So the fact that all of this '80's culture that I lived through (and the geekdom that occurs upstairs in my household now) is this book's anchor? Almost an out-of-body experience for me. I was giddy.
But you really don't even have to know the '80's intimately, you don't have to be into gaming, or be a teenager, or even LIKE Sci-fi. We have a likable, underdog protagonist, a treasure hunt, lots of action, a mentor that is half Steve Jobs and half Willy Wonka, and a world that is really...not too far from what we have now.
This was an example of a brilliant mind that knows no boundaries, turned loose on the page. Ernest Cline let it rip and we are the beneficiaries. Thank you Ernest Cline, you will be a the top of my love list for 2012.
A word about the audio production: Audio book producers, take note please. This is an example of PERFECTLY CASTING A BOOK. If I looked the whole world over, there would not be a more suitable person to narrate this book than Wil Wheaton. Wheaton embodied Wade - his youthfulness, his enthusiasm, his self-deprecation. I've noticed that he has narrated other books, and I'm going to make it my mission to seek him out.
5 out of 5 stars