Within minutes of reading this book, I had a pretty good synopsis for the book in mind, and after finishing I still think it sticks. This book is in short, a Cyberpunk retelling of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now before you think straight rip off and imagine Oompa Loompa's Cybered up on chipware and carrying neural-linked smartguns. There is more to it but it my short explanation is meant to give you a basic gist. The story starts with a poor kid named Wade Owen Watts, (His initials are W.O.W. just like World Of Warcraft, Coincidence? I THINK NOT!) There are a lot of references to sci-fi comics, videogames and music, mostly from the 1980s. an era that is clearly revered by the author of this book, Ernest Cline. Anyway Wade like almost everyone in his dystopic future is involved with OASIS, a combination MMO, Facebook and Internet in the future. Wade is schooled in a virtual classroom, was raised by educational softwares, and when he is not in the massive online universe of OASIS, his life sucks.
But there is hope, The creator of the OASIS is dead. And in his will, he placed a contest to which he offers his fortune to he who can find 3 special keys (copper, jade, and crystal) and challenge the 3 gates. Halliwell the game's creator was obessed with his own past and those things he loved in his teen years making the 1980s a source of fascinations in hopes of finding clues to the prize's (an egg) mysterious whereabouts. Hunters of the egg have formed clans looking over the next 5 years However Wade finds the first one. which after 5 years of fruitless searching his actions ignite a firestorm on the network. An enemy, in the form of a rival company IOI, (the 3 letters almost look like an emoticon for a tie fighter don't they!) who wants the prize to take over Haliwells' fortune and company further monetizing it for their own selfish purposes. They want it bad enough to kill, and thus Wade's life is immediately in danger, both in cyberspace and in real life.
Overall, this book was a very satisfying read, it's about as tough to read as Jim Butcher's Dresden books. In short You start reading and find it very hard to put down until it's done (hence the reason my British Infantry aren't going to be done by the con this weekend! Thanks Steve!) The only real complaint is as a hardcore geek I felt some of the surprise lost in exposition that I already knew stuff about. such as when they compare the contest to both Atari's adventure easter egg, and the Swordquest series. I wasn't think oh wow I never knew that, I felt more of a yep and then they will link swordquest to the prizes offered for discovering the secrets of the games and that the contest never saw fruition due to Atari's financial woes dropping the games from production. Don't get me wrong this was minor, and still did not ruin the book for me. There are still some damn good twists and turns which I will not spoil here. In the end a good read for any hardcore comic/video game/rpg/1980s geek. I have also heard Warner Bros has picked up the rights for the film. This kind of scares me as the ton of references can make the film a logistical nightmare from Serenity, to Star Wars,to Macross and Even mentioning Champions, and Shogun Warrior toys. if they make fake proxies it will ruin the point of seeing Max Headroom as the AI for a firefly class ship (Please let the get Matt Frewer back!) but the realities is Fox, Disney, Toei, Marvel hell even hero games will probably want a bit of the action to use their IPs. I hope it works don't get me wrong but this could be the source of some massive (and well placed) Nerd Rage should they mess up this nerdvana of a book.