I believe this is the kind of novel they call ‘young adult’. I am not a young adult, but I enjoyed it a lot, possibly because I am in the other category that might enjoy this – someone who was a teenager in the eighties.
The story is this – in a run down future, a lot of the population take refuge in a virtual reality program called ‘Oasis’. The earth is described as dying, and the divide between rich and poor has become a yawning chasm. Before he dies, the creator of this system announces a game, with the winner inheriting all his wealth and ownership of the Oasis system. Naturally this inspires the treasure-hunter types of this society, and the hunt begins. The story then follows a group of young people who are leaders in this hunt, mainly because they are total gaming nerds who have memorized everything they can about the system and its creator.
The characters are not overly complex, but relatable enough. They are all obsessive in their interests, and some readers may find it hard to understand this mindset. If you consider the real environment that is described (as opposed to the virtual one) you can understand why the population may want to dive into fantasy, and why those who live in poverty may dream of finding the ‘egg’ that gives them control of the Oasis. It can be hard to get a read on the characters, because everyone is interacting on a virtual level only, and in the real world they do not meet. This is deliberate – the author is commenting on the current internet usage, where a person can tailor what they show to others, and no one can really verify the information they provide. The virtual reality of the book takes this to its ultimate, and logical, conclusion.
It’s not a complex plot, and it’s not hard to guess the probable outcome, but I don’t believe that makes it a poor novel. After all, plenty of books and films are made based on fairy tales and legends, and the outcome being known doesn’t necessarily make for poor entertainment. The way the author takes the characters from A to Z is fun and inventive, with plenty of allusions to the games and movies of the eighties that populate the gamers’ world. I enjoyed the trips down memory lane. Nostalgia rules.
It’s a weird idea, that the culture of the eighties might hold such sway over the future. So much of what was considered trendy then would not be considered so today. I think this may have been deliberate too – eighties culture is often considered trashy, and the author describes a future environment that is genuinely trashy, so what could fit better than a trash culture for a trashed world?
I am not going to say this is a brilliant novel, because it isn’t. It’s a fluffy light-hearted bit of entertainment, and there is nothing wrong with that. Suitable for young and old.
(Click on the link to buy a copy of the book)