Add this book to the shortlist of must-reads for every True Geek, right alongside Snow Crash. It’s a gleeful homage to geekdom and pop culture.
Wade explains to the reader that he was born after humanity wore the world out and escaped to OASIS, a massive simulation that has replaced the internet and all other forms of entertainment. Nobody seems to spend time in reality anymore because it sucks. There are multiple wars going on over the few energy sources that are left. Poverty, hunger, and homelessness are rampant everywhere.
Most people who are fortunate enough to live indoors at all are like Wade, who lives with his aunt and her latest boyfriend in a three-bedroom doublewide trailer shared with 17 people. The trailer is at least near the top of a stack, which is just what it sounds like: a stack of trailers 10 or so high, so many across and wide, so that 500 or more trailers are held together with rusted scaffolding, chains, and whatever other reinforcements people have added over the years. Stack collapses are common.
Wade spends most of his time in his hideout, the back of an old van that’s parked in a junkyard and crammed in a stack of vehicles. That’s where he keeps his computer and other equipment, so he can attend school (in OASIS, of course) and spend time researching The Contest, which is the center of his life.
The creator of OASIS, James Halliday, created The Contest in his will. Whoever wins it will inherit Halliday’s vast fortune and control of OASIS. At the opening of the novel, it has been five years since Halliday died and contestants are ridiculed in everyday society as obsessive losers.
Wade’s quest through The Contest and his fight to simply survive is far more interesting than I thought it would be. I’ll also admit to being entertained by the ’80s trivia that pops up throughout the book (integral to The Contest). I’m biased, as I was a teen during those years.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It’s one of the very few that I’ll be saving to re-read in the future.