Cline has managed to do something unique with this debut novel: There are more geeky references (which I love) in this thing than any other I have ever read. People, like myself, who are into geeky things get a massive kick out of seeing our pop-culture icons used in conjunction with a well-written story.
Less geeky individuals will be able to easily identify with the socioeconomic state the world is in. To put it simply, the real world has become the sort of place where you don’t drink the water and you only go outside with a group of people to watch your back.
The main character, Wade Watts, escapes into a virtual world where all of these problems don’t exist, much like the rest of the world. This virtual reality (named OASIS) is basically a video game that has become so huge it has essentially replaced the Internet. OASIS is completely immersive, and massive. No one hops on to their laptop to Google whether a swallow can carry a coconut anymore. Instead, they log in with their OASIS console and watch the poor birds try. (The answer is likely no, by the way.)
So, here’s the question: does Cline manage to write something that John Scalzi (one of my favorite authors) calls a “nerdgasm” with enough of a story to appeal to the non-nerd audience? That’s a tough one. The story is clever, moves well, and has a fun classic adventure feel to it. However, it’s not something I would recommend to my non-geeky wife. But I loved it. If you are a gamer, obsessed with 80s pop culture, or a self-proclaimed geek of any stripe, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Go get it! It’s better than playing a perfect game of Pac-Man!
Quinton Lawman is a technical writer at OverDrive.