After reading an add that called this book a cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
and The Matrix
I knew I had to check it out. Reading the blurb and finding out it's about gamer geeks totally sold me.
It's been a while since I've been this captivated by a book. I read a lot, and I tend to get pretty absorbed into what I'm reading. But this book owned my attention in a way nothing has for a long, long time. The only break I took from reading this was to raid with my World of Warcraft guild (I'm only a casual gamer geek, but I know people just like Wade--I think that's part of what made this book so much fun!) and even then I spent an apparently annoying amount of time telling all of my guildies that that HAVE to read this book.
There are so many things I loved about this book. I loved the dichotomy between RL and OASIS, and how perfectly and beautifully Mr. Cline illustrated that as Parzival became more and more powerful and famous in-game, Wade lived anonymously and alone in a tiny room with only his computer to talk to IRL.
I loved how vividly both worlds (or universes, I guess, in the case of OASIS. (what is the plural of universe, anyway?)) were described, and how much of a jolt it was even to me when Parzival became Wade again and we had to return to the real world. I'd been having so much fun tagging along with him on his adventures that I'd forgotten that wasn't his real world. The way Mr. Cline was able to manage that was both disorienting and delightful.
I loved James Halliday and his crazy obsession with the 1980's and the way he set up all of his puzzles. I ADORED that he made the first key accessible to the students whose education he'd made possible. That totally added to the fantastic Willy Wonka vibe of the book, and was the first thing that gave me hope that he'd set up his game in such a way that the little indie gunters might win instead of the power-hungry corporate goon sixers.
I also think having grown up in the '80s contributed to my adoration of this book. I was a little too young to appreciate most of the music, but I grew up watching War Games and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so getting to experience reliving those movies with Parzival was fantastic fun.
While I'm in spoiler mode, I have to say how much I loved Aech. I loved him when he and Parzival were so happy together being geeky, I adored him when he sent Parzival the hint for the second key, but I totally fell in love with her when Wade walked onto her RV and met her for real. For some reason I totally ended up picturing her as Mercedes from Glee, and she ended up cracking me up! LOVED her!
I think my favorite thing about this book was that Wade had to have the courage to do things IRL and couldn't just sit back and be physically safe while his avatar conquered the world for him. I loved that the real world kept coming back and being so important--that Sorrento was hunting them all IRL, and that they needed to do something to him IRL also to take away his power so he couldn't lash out at them after they won. Wade's infiltration of the IOI and his subsequent escape are some of my favorite parts of the book!
I also love that in addition to the definite Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Matrix vibes in the book, there was also a generous helping of The Neverending Story throughout, but especially at the end. Having the gate be left floating above a big chunk of rock in the now-deserted and mostly destroyed quadrant, and then having Anorak grant Parzival the ability to make any of his wishes come true totally made me smile at the nods to another of my favorite movies/books.
I feel like I've read so many good books lately that I'm running out of adjectives. I'll just say that this book was amazing enough to skip right over my New Favorites shelf and land squarely and securely in my Favorites shelf with my other all-time favorites.
I'm still trying to figure out how to get copies of this book to everyone I know so that they can all have the experience of reading this book for themselves...