I am the quintessential child of the 80s. Born at the end of 1972, I’m right in the middle of Generation X and about a year or two younger than James Donovan Halliday aka Anorak a video game tycoon who has set up a virtual world called OASIS and has left his fortune to the winner of a video game Easter egg hunt.
The story follows Wade, an orphan who lives in a stacked trailer park outside of Oklahoma City. He escapes his impoverished existence by hiding out in an abandoned panel van where he attends online school in the OASIS and plays video games.
The story begins with him being the first person to find the first of three keys in the video game. The publicity he receives from this improves his financial situation as well as makes him a target for an organization bent on taking control of the OASIS.
Wade, known online as Parzival, the man who finds the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend he is in competition with Aech (H) and Art3mis, a couple of other gamers, and a legion of corporate drones known collectively as Sixers because of their player designation (employee numbers beginning with the number six) to win the egg hunt.
The book is full of pop culture references for my generation. I never played Dungeons and Dragons, and my video game experience was minimal.A few times a year, my parents would relent and give me a quarter or two to play Pac Man (my favorite). I don’t think I ever cleared a screen. More embarrassing was realizing there are John Hughes movies I haven’t seen. What? How did that happen? That said, there is so much I could relate to. TV shows. Movies. Trends. Etc. It was mind candy for those of us who came of age in the 80s and 90s.
Overall, I loved the book. It’s narrated by geek icon and fellow Gen-Xer, Wil Wheaton. Not only is his voice perfect for Wade, he embodies geek culture for my generation. I listened to it last weekend and had to pull myself away from the book to function as what I really am, a 40-something soccer mom.
As a caveat, this book has some salty language and violence, although most violence is within the virtual world, some of it translates into the physical world. There’s not much sexual content. Virgin alert. It’s about dorky gamers, and they live up to that stereotype. However, there is sexual innuendo.
Overall, I thought it was a great book. Had spot-on narration. And I can’t wait for the movie, which comes out later this month.
What is your favorite video game?