Wade Watts spends all his time in a virtual world (i.e. the internet combined with a MMORPG) called the Oasis because he lives in a tiny trailer with his Aunt, who only lets him live with her because she gets extra food vouchers. When the founder of the Oasis dies, he creates a contest to inherit his power and fame, and it’s all based on his obsession with 1980’s pop culture. In five long years since the contest was announced, Wade finds the first clue and learns how far other players (and corporations) are willing go for the ultimate prize. To survive, he must stay ahead in the race both inside and outside of the Oasis.

If you’re looking for a fun nostalgic scavenger hunt adventure story and you were a nerd in the 80’s, then this book is for you. The action-packed plot, the relatable characters, and even the futuristic setting take a backseat to the 1980’s-era references, including computers, video games, movies, music, comic books, and especially science fiction and fantasy.

I recognized a lot, but I missed a lot more. Where I didn’t get the references, I admit to feeling left out of the club, and I realize that most of the high praise for Ready Player One is purely based on the recognition response. I think that use of a specific decade as inspiration is a neat idea, but instead of using the 80’s as starting point, every detail is a name-drop that doesn’t have a purpose in the story. For example, why does Wade ride around in a DeLorean if he never has to reach a speed of 88 mph, or time travel, or find a new power source that could deliver 1.21 gigawatts in order to solve a new clue or save a friend?

The plot is extremely well paced, and you’ll feel the disappointment as well as the excitement right along with Wade. The traditional boy-meets-girl arc plays out nicely. Wade learns some good lessons about using the Oasis as a replacement for real life. And internet privacy, free education, and the players who mind the rules win in the end. Overall, it’s harmless and lightweight and perfect for a summer read.

Recommended for computer nerds who lived through the 1980’s!

“GSS had also licensed preexisting virtual worlds from their competitors, so content that had already been created for games like Everquest and World of Warcraft was ported over to the OASIS, and copies of Norrath and Azeroth were added to the growing catalog of OASIS planets. 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.”