Book blogger, audiobook lover and shamelessly honest reviewer. Mostly read fantasy, mystery, romance, UF and YA but all genres welcome.
This book was simply phenomenal.
Not being into video games at all, I would have never thought that I was going to enjoy this book as much as I did. But while listening to it, I laughed, cried and made random YES! gestures every time Parzival (aka Wade) cleared a hurdle in the hunt.
The plot is a curious mix of past and future, a sort of Willie Wonka but with video games. It’s about friendship and being courageous enough to live in the real world. The action was very exciting and there were a lot of great twists. I was on the edge of my seat, never anticipating what would come next. And I have to confess that I had a nerdgasm every time a particularly cool robot, weapon or machinery came into play. I guess I’m more a geek than I thought.
Unlike some other futuristic books, the author explained why the world had gone to hell in a hand basket; why one day we were prosperous and the next, millions of people were starving. This predisposed me to like this book from the beginning because this is never explained in the last 2 books of this ilk I’ve read (which annoys the hell out of me.) And the explanation makes sense, something we may actually experience if the world continues as it’s been going for the last few hundred years.
Wade has a place in my heart as one of the best all around characters I’ve read around in a long time. He was just soo good. He was super geeky but also smart, funny, brave, generous, polite, romantic (you cannot believe what he does for love) and so honorable that he made me proud (like he was mine, LOL!) Putting a high stock on honor seems to be a thing of the past but I’m an old fashioned person who believes in keeping one’s word and being fair to others. Wade was just like that and I just loved him.
I guess in a sense this book could be classified as YA (the main characters are from mid teens through early twenties) but it doesn’t feel like it. These are not whiny, self-centered teenagers but adults that are trying to do the best they can in the horrible world they live in. Of course, the OASIS makes it easy for them to cope because they are able to escape their reality. For a while I felt like judging but then I realized that I wasn’t that different. I spend most of my free time reading and most of my friends are in other countries so most of our contact is online. The only difference between me and Wade is that IRL, I’m very happy, with good parents, an amazing husband and a comfortable job. How could I judge him when even I, feel like escaping my life once in a while?
Besides video games, this book deals with A LOT of 1980s pop culture, including TV shows, movies, music and anything that could be of geek interest including sci-fi and fantasy books/writers as well as Japanese anime and monster shows. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. Having never watched a Star Wars movie (and I’m not planning to) or played an Arcade game in my life, you would have thought that I would have been be lost but I wasn’t. The author did a great job explaining the characters, themes and plots that were relevant to the hunt. Of course, I can imagine that if you actually know what he’s actually talking about, you probably would enjoy it more. I know that I did when two of my favorite Sci-Fi movies (WarGames & Blade Runner) played a prominent role in the hunt. (You cannot imagine how many songs, movies and shows I’ve googled since I started reading this book.)
Wil Wheaton did an amazing job with the narration. He brought Wade to life in a perfect mix of earnest, slightly irreverent and sometimes insecure geek who’s doing the quest of his life. Wil wasn’t great with different voices but it doesn’t really matter because we are in Wade’s head most of the time. (Funny thing: When Wil was mentioned in the book, I immediately remembered him from Star Trek: The Next Generation – one of the few Sci-Fi shows I’ve actually seen – and I wondered where had I seen his name recently….it took me a while to figure out he was the actual narrator of the book.)
If I have one quibble is that there were a lot of ‘and then’, especially in Level 3. And then I went to the bathroom, and then I took a shower, and then I dried with a towel, etc. I guess it was more noticeable because this was the audio version and Wil felt like he had to put a bit of drama on them. But I enjoyed the book soo much and this was a minor issue.
Overall, a really fun, touching, exciting story with a little bit of everything: action, adventure, redemption and even a bit of romance. I will definitely be listening to this one again.