This has been on my TBR for years, but I’ve heard some mixed reviews so I was never overly concerned about getting around to it. Then, they announced the movie. And my husband was like, “A movie about immersion video games? With 80s pop culture trivia? Um, we are going to see this!” So, we jointly decided to read the book first (mostly on my insistence) and then have a movie date night when it comes out. He read it first and dude, it only took like 2 days. He couldn’t put it down. The only other books I’ve seen him read like that are LOTR. Needless to say, I picked it up soon after he finished (I, of course, never like to be out of the loop on awesome books).
What. An. Adventure. And the detail. Oh my goodness. This is going to be a short review for me (gasp) but that definitely is not a reflection on the book. It’s just that, truly, there are only so many ways to say that this was a completely immersive, non-stop escapade of fun, danger, humor, and all the nerdy and 80s pop culture references a person could ever hope for. And those references are all inclusive: music, movies, books, games (video, board, arcade, role play); you name it, it’s referenced. Cline also does an amazing job developing the absolute separation, but parallel existence, of the virtual world in OASIS and the real world. Each is just as important as the other, in their own way, to the plot. And the few points he is able to get in about how each can help and harm the other are meaningful in their sparseness, making you think but not overdoing it. They are layered and woven together perfectly and complexly – it’s incredibly impressive.
I can see why it may not be for some people. The depth of information on games and gaming systems, both old school and the updated completely virtual reality version in the book (OASIS), does border on the intense. As do, really, many of the hardcore references. However, as someone who would consider herself pretty nerdy, it definitely didn’t stop me from enjoying the journey. A basic level of nerdiness (some knowledge of Star Wars, some 80s rock/pop, X-men, and other general nerd pop culture) will be more than enough to get you through. Cline does a great job explaining the more obscure references for anyone who doesn’t immediately catch them, and of course if you want more, there’s always the internet. I definitely Googled a few things along the way. Plus, I truly feel like the details about the technology of OASIS and the specifics of the retro movies and arcade games can be skimmed, if they start to feel excessive and that’s not your cup of tea, without taking anything away from the overall pull and pacing of the novel. Maybe that’s blasphemous? But I’m just being honest. Don’t let the fact that you may not get every reference or care about every detail stop you from reading because the it is so worth it!
Bottom line, I recommend that, ASAP, you grab yourself a copy of this book and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime with Parzival, Art3mis and Aech (along with their various allies and enemies) as they race to solve Halliday’s posthumous, 80s-themed, virtual reality quests and be the one to win his unclaimed fortune!