In the year 2040 the world has become inundated with poverty and a computer mentality/reality apparently dominated by the freely available OASIS, invented and bestowed on the world by the great computer whiz, James Halliday.
OASIS is an enormous virtual world which serves a multitude of needs from education to socialization in addition to gaming and relaxing. This has become a “need” in a day and age when trailers are piled one atop the other for living quarters.
As the story opens, Halliday has been dead for several years but he left a gaming quest via a video in the OASIS. It is this quest, the hunt for an Easter Egg via 3 secret keys hidden in OASIS which draws our hero, Wade Watts (aka Parzival online), a 16-year old boy, into a grand obsession. The quest has been going on since Halliday died and the story opens with Wade immersed himself in computer lore, games, history, and everything to do with Halliday, the quest, the book related to the quest, Halliday himself and his times (the 1980s). The competitors are still seeking the first gate.
There are many competitors because the prize is incredibly valuable and Wade’s best old friend and his hopefully new girlfriend become two of his fiercest competitors. They are a part of a large amorphous group called the Gunters (egg hunters). Another seeking the treasure is called the Sixers and they are a very business-oriented group – definitely the bad guys. We don’t want the bad guys getting the Egg.
This is an amazing debut novel, fun, hugely imaginative and immediately compelling from page one. It also includes an astounding display of annotatable detail about the pop-culture world of the 1980s.
Wil Wheaton’s narration made it really “come alive” (sorry – but he’s perfect) and listening quickly became a joy to experience – an experience of a marathon listen because I couldn’t turn it off. There is a movie in the works, but …
For some excellent background on these pop-culture items see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ready_Player_One