This book is awesome. Really awesome. This book is made of awesomeness.
Ready Player One takes place in the 2040s, when the real world is not a pleasant place, but virtual reality is advanced enough that many people prefer to live there instead. The OASIS, a huge virtual reality system that is open to the public, is more that just a virtual copy of this world. It is an expansive universe of virtual worlds, some of which are based on movies or video games.
Basic functions of the OASIS are available to the public at no cost, but premium virtual items cost real money. By creating and managing the OASIS, Jim Halliday became a multi-billionaire . . . and then he died. In his will, Halliday invited members of the OASIS to participate in his game inside the OASIS. The winner of the game would become his heir.
Halliday was a huge fan of 80s and 90s pop culture. Winning his game requires in-depth knowledge of this culture, especially as it relates to video games, books, and movies that are well-loved by the geek community (which happens to include me). As a result, this book is filled with pop culture references. It's just so much fun!
The main character has dedicated his life to winning the game. Along the way he makes a few friends, who are also dedicated to winning. The antagonist is IOI, a company whose goal is to win Halliday's game. If IOI wins, it intends to privatize the OASIS, granting access only to those who can afford to pay the big bucks. With multi-billions at stake, IOI is willing to hunt down and murder the top players.
I had a hard time putting this book down. The plot was great; it was imaginative and exciting. The characters faced believable choices between their friendships and their goals, and they were reasonably and understandably hesitant about becoming part of the real world. I rooted for them every step of the way.
My main problem with this book is that I did not notice a single reference to Michael Jackson. For a book that spends so much time throwing out 80s and 90s pop culture references, I felt like this was a huge oversight. But other than that, I adored this book.