This books was a lot of fun. It reminded me a little of Among Others by Jo Walton, not because it had anything to do with that book, but because it’s really a love letter to the author’s past. Cline obviously loved the pop culture of the 80s, and it comes through in he book. The detail given to all the games, movies, and music in the books was phenomenal. Even though I didn’t get every reference, I got enough to know that everything was accurate.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about the characters in the book. Part of the problem is that every character is really two characters, the person and the avatar. Wade, for instance, isn’t all that likeable by himself. He’s a reclusive shut-in, and does very little to engage me as a reader (until near the end, at least). His avatar, Parzival, is much more interesting, and is really the primary character for most of the book. Parzival actually has friends and shows some growth throughout the book. The same can be said for the other protagonists. The use of these split characters makes a lot of sense in the world, but also bothered me a bit since the actual human characters didn’t really do much.
The world itself had a similar problem. The bulk of the story takes place inside the OASIS, a virtual reality so advanced that it’s become essential to the function of society. That means that there are two worlds in the book, the real world and the OASIS, and the two are very different. The real world is a dreary place with very little to offer. The OASIS has anything and everything one could think of. While the OASIS is fascinating and engaging, it’s also abundantly clear throughout the novel that it’s artificial, but that just makes the real world seem more distant and bland.
Even though those two issues were always floating around in the back of my mind while I was reading the book, they don’t detract from how enjoyable the story is. The plot moves quickly, and even the overly convenient plot twists seem to fit within the narrative. The book is supposed to be fun, and it is.