Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
Forty years from now, as society slowly collapses, everyone spends all their time in the OASIS, an immersive online environment that has become the new Internet. It's a giant MMORPG*, it's where everyone does business, and you can even go to school there. The original designer, a video-game genius obsessed with the 1980's media he grew up with, died five years ago and left his entire fortune to whoever solves the riddles that lead to the biggest Easter egg in history. Wade, like many others, spends just about all his time in the OASIS, studying everything about the 80s and hoping to solve the riddle. Then one day he figures it out and suddenly there are an awful lot of bad guys after him.
This novel was all over the book blogs several months ago, but my library only just got it. I remembered being intrigued by the descriptions I'd heard, but when I brought it home I wasn't at all sure I was going to read it. The first few pages did not grab me--there is an avalanche of 80s references, and although Oingo Boingo is my favorite band and my kids love MacGyver and I have been known to win 80s trivia contests, it was too much even for me. Honestly, the idea of a future society where a lot of people obsessively watch Silver Spoons and play Galaga is pretty horrifying--not that Cline doesn't know that; he does.
However, I did eventually get curious about where this crazy story was going to go, and by the end it was hard to put down--and the final challenge is perfection itself for anyone who was a nerd back in the day. You have to have a really high tolerance for all of the geekier aspects of the 1980s though, and I do but it was still kind of too much. Also, I am not quite sure why this is often billed as a YA novel. It seems to me to be aimed squarely at people my age. Who else is going to know what G-Force is?
I think I like the concept better than the execution, but I did have fun.
Cline actually hid an Easter egg in the book, too. When the paperback came out, he announced that whoever solved the clues and won the contest would receive--naturally--a DeLorean car. And indeed one Craig Queen won that car last August, by setting new world records in old Atari 2600 games.
I suppose we'll all be hearing a lot more about it, because it looks like there's going to be a movie. Better brush up your memory of New Order songs...
*MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (World of Warcraft is one), is pronounced muh-MORP-uh-guh. That's what Yahtzee says, anyway, and I believe him.