In the near future, all the environmental disasters we’re currently anticipating have come to pass, but humanity doesn’t care. They have the OASIS. The ultimate MMO RPG. A paradise for everyone to hide in while the planet falls apart. Five years ago, the creator of the OASIS died, leaving the game, and all his millions, to whoever could solve the quest he left behind him. In all this time, no one has made any progress. Until now.
Style & Pacing
The most noticeable aspect of this book, the thing that smacks you round the face within pages, is how incredibly geeky it is. It’s packed full of 80s pop culture references, from Star Wars and Rubik’s Cubes to Rush and The Breakfast Club, not to mention all the more obscure stuff I’d never heard of before. That isn’t to say that they’re superfluous: the plot couldn’t progress without them. The creator of the OASIS loved the 80s, so the only way to complete the quest is to gather up every scrap of information you can, and just hope you know everything you need.
The book is pretty fast paced. There’s a lot of information you need right at the beginning, but Cline does a pretty good job of simultaneously getting you up to speed and letting the plot progress, explaining things as and when they come up. He also manages not to go too far in the other direction and leave you in the dark too much.
Wade is a very satisfying main character because he makes mistakes. I mean, I sometimes wanted to smack him, but I appreciated the depth of his characterisation. He gets over confident, he messes up his friendships, and he makes stupid decisions. And then, equally importantly, he gets punished for that, and figures out that he was wrong, and apologises.
I loved most of the side characters too. They were all well developed and had interesting plotlines and backgrounds of their own, especially Aech and Art3mis. Sorrento was exactly the kind of villain I wanted for this book: the bastard who runs the evil corporation and has no interest in anything but getting what he wants. From the moment he was introduce, I wanted nothing more than to see him get taken down, which I have to assume was exactly how Cline wanted me to feel.
The writing was nice, because it didn’t get between me and the story at all. It wasn’t beautiful or especially memorable, but it sounded like a teenage boy was talking to me, which was what it was supposed to do.
“My generation had never known a world without the OASIS. To us, it was much more than a game or an entertainment platform. It had been an integral part of our lives for as far back as we could remember. We’d been born into an ugly world, and the OASIS was our one happy refuge.”
“Other virtual worlds soon followed suit, from the Metaverse to the Matrix. The Firefly universe was anchored in a sector adjacent to the Star Wars galaxy, with a detailed re-creation of the Star Trek universe in the sector adjacent to that. Users could now teleport back and forth between their favorite fictional worlds. Middle Earth. Vulcan. Pern. Arrakis. Magrathea. Discworld, Mid-World, Riverworld, Ringworld.”
I honestly haven’t read anything very much like this, but I was sometimes reminded of Redwall by Brian Jacques, which also revolves around a quest left by a fabled leader, although the genre is completely different.