This is, without a doubt, the best book I have read in 2015. This is not as big a compliment as it might usually be because I read relatively few books last year, but it is way way up there, there’s definitely room for it in my top ten books, maybe even top five. There are a handful of minor problems with the book so I won’t put it in the number one spot.
The premises for the story is that an eccentric billionaire has just left his entire fortune to someone who can find a specific Easter Egg in his video game. Of course this is not just any video game, it is a virtual reality MMORPG that would make World of Warcraft look like a Nintendo Game & Watch. Not only is the guy a billionaire, he is the richest man in the world at the time of his death. Further the story takes place in the 2040’s and the entire world is constantly playing this game, called “The OASIS.” The world is also in an advanced state of decay caused by all the wars and nonsense going on in our current time. Thus making the novel a dystopia, a trope that has already created some of the greatest novels ever written, such as “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”
These things alone would set up a nice, good novel, but what sets this novel apart from just about any I’ve ever read, is that it is packed to the brim with obscure 80’s pop culture references. Personally I love the 80’s and have just about my entire life. The result is that I knew just about every reference made in the book, up until the middle or so when the author started to throw in some stuff about 80’s Japanese culture which I am not quite as familiar with. There is unfortunately no reference to Geneses, but there is significant reference to Rush. Aside from 80’s pop culture there are heavy references to Retro Video Games, a hobby I’ve sunk deeply into over the past two years or so. In short, this book has almost everything I love packed into a nice, decent sized, Dystopian Sci-Fi Epic. It’s almost as though I wrote it directly from the twisted interworkings of my own mind, and it kind of pisses me off that I didn’t write it.
This is a good part to put in the two minor things that I don’t like about the novel. First there is a small love story that is thrown in and really shouldn’t be in there at all, it kind of slows down the story at a critical juncture. The other problem that I have is with the ending. I don’t want to say too much about that here, because it could ruin the story. All I’m going to say is that the ending doesn’t ruin the entire book or crap out the way a number of other would be great books have, however it was just that I wanted something a little different.
I’d also like to mention the reader, Will Wheaton, the actor of Star-Trek Fame. I’ve never listened to a book he’s read before, I’m not sure if he has read any others. He’s not the best reader I’ve come across, but he did a good job. A bad reader can ruin a good book, and he certainly didn’t hurt this book in anyway. What’s more interesting is that he is mentioned a handful of time’s in the book. This may be the first time I ever came across a reader reading his own name in the text of an audio book. Pretty interesting, very meta.
I’ll also add that this book is not necessarily for everyone. I loved it, but I also happened to love the world it had set up and the constant references that I knew very well. If you’re not as much as an 80’s-pile as I am, or a retro gamer, then you might not get as much out of this novel as I did, so keep that in mind if you choose to read it.