Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a real hoot. Bookman read it and liked it so much I decided I had to read it too before it went back to the library.

The year is 2044, the world is an ugly place and in order to escape it, people spend as much time as possible online immersed in the OASIS. OASIS is not just a game, it a virtual world, a place where a person can go to school, socialize, create new cities or planets, you name it. Imagine Second Life but much grander many times over. The creator of OASIS, Jim Halliday, has died and has willed his fortune to the person who can complete the greatest game ever devised. Three keys must be found and the challenges of the gate each key opens surmounted. The first one to find all the keys and clear all the gates is the winner, the new owner of OASIS and a multi-billionaire.

OASIS is a world that is accessible to everyone with an internet connection but once the game is announced, IOI, the big evil corporation, jumps into action, determined to win the game and takeover the OASIS so it can make money off of it.

Our hero is Wade Watts, known in OASIS as Parzival. He, along with everyone else is looking for the first key. The puzzle is so well designed that five years pass before anyone figures it out. Parzival suddenly finds himself on the top of the scoreboard and then the race is on.

It’s not all fun and games though. Because OASIS is a virtual world players create avatars for themselves. Of course, they don’t have to look anything like the real person behind them, they don’t even have to be the same sex. And so a player can be prettier, taller, slimmer, have more muscles, have blonde hair instead of brown, be younger or older, a different ethnicity, whatever they want. And of course, players make friends with other players without ever seeing them in real life. What happens when the person you consider your best friend is someone you have only known in OASIS? And what happens when you meet that best friend in real life? Is who we are online so very different than who we are in real life even if our physical appearance is not the same?

There is a spot in the middle where the action sags a little, but otherwise the book is a cracking fun read. One of the things that makes it so fun is that Halliday came of age in the 1980s and so his game is steeped in 80s trivia. Rush, David Bowie, Oingo Boingo, Ladyhawke, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, War Games, Pac Man, Asteroids, Dungeons and Dragons, you name it, it is probably referenced in here somewhere. Since I was a teenager in the 80s, I enjoyed the trip down memory lane immensely. If you are not of a certain age, not sure how much you will enjoy it. But if you want to get your geek on, it will be hard to find a better book.