Wade Owen Watts is a gamer. Seriously, he learned to read, write, share, play, etc. in the OASIS. His parents are dead - his father from a shooting and his mother from a drug overdose. He now lives in a trailer stack with his aunt, who doesn't really like him and only uses his presence to get extra food vouchers from the government. Life is so bad in the Stacks that he creates his own fortress of solitude in a van that sits on the outskirts of the Stacks. There, he gets away from his horrible reality and enters the virtual world that has become his home, his preferred reality.
Wade is known as a Gunter, a person who spends most of his time hunting for a long lost Easter Egg implanted in the system by Halliday before he died. Halliday, a multi-billionaire from his technological and virtual exploits, created the egg in hopes of finding an heir to his fortune because he had no relatives or children. Thus, the person who found the Easter Egg would be able to take over and become a multi-billionaire his or herself. Of course, this is no easy feat. A list of clues are left for the hunters, but an in-depth knowledge of Halliday and his quirks are necessary to decipher them. On top of this, an outside corporation known as IOI has created a "hunter conglomerate" known as the Sixers (because all of their usernames begin with a 6) in hopes that they will be able to find the egg and take over Halliday's system. They will stop at nothing to obtain OASIS, even if it means they must cheat and kill for it.
Wade must fight through the obstacles in hopes of altering his future, but will he be able to succeed when everything is stacked against hime?
What I liked about the book was the fact that every detail was explained. The author tried to ensure that all plot holes were filled and no reader would be left wondering how something occurred. I also liked that the author included so many 80s details throughout the novel. Halliday was said to be an avid 80s popular culture fan, and in order to find the Easter Egg, all the Gunters had to be similarly acquainted with the time period. The author made sure that this detail was efficiently flushed out, for every chapter had loads of 80s cultural references, and I appreciated that for the nostalgia that certain references elicited.
I didn't like how focused the author was on the gender of the characters. There were instances where Wade asks a character if they are of the female gender. He furthers the statement by asking if they are female from birth with no sex-change operations. Although this is a question that some people may ask, I thought it was insensitive and that it could be triggering. I know this was not the focus, but one of the themes seems to be that people can care for someone no matter who they are or how they look on the outside, that virtual reality allows people to become friends or be in romantic relationships without physical presence. Yet, although Wade said he fell in love with her mind, he mentions her gender numerous times, saying that he wouldn't want to be falling for an old bald Guy named Chuck who lives in his mom's basement. Not considering the age, if Art3mis would have been a bald guy around Wade's age, I wonder if his love would have dissipated, thus negating the theme about intellectual connections.