What do you think the world will be like in 2044?
Ernest Cline’s very original novel imagines a world in economic ruin following a Great Recession. In the new world, many people are able to escape the grim reality by spending time in “the OASIS”. The OASIS is like combining the internet and a giant multi player simulation video game all wrapped into one. Players can change their identities and be anything they want to be in the OASIS.
In this novel our hero is Wade Watts, a skinny kid who is living with his Aunt in the “stacks” which in the new world is the new suburbia. These “stacks” are trailer homes stacked on top of each other as the main housing for the middle class in the future. And while Wade is physically located in the stacks, he spends most of his time as his online character in the OASIS participating in “the HUNT”. The hunt is like a giant lottery ticket created by James Halliday the creator of the OASIS. When Halliday died, he decided to reward the ultimate gamer with his entire inheritance. To win the hunt, you have to solve riddles and puzzles while relying on your video game skills and your knowledge of James Halliday’s favorite era, the 80’s.
Wade befriends 4 other fellow “hunters” as they attempt to solve the riddles while competing against a giant corporation who sells the souls of it’s employees but spends it’s vast resources in search of the treasure. And if the giant corporation wins, who knows what will become of the OASIS? Will it remain free? Or will it become a paid for service?
The book has a unique plot and poses some interesting questions about what the future looks like; especially in the face of all of our technical advances. In 2044 Wade hardly ever has any human interactions because most of his life is online. Is this what our future holds as well? I know that I personally have resolved to live more in the physical world, but I realize that technology plays an important role in enhancing our physical lives. And living online is more convenient for people.
At the end of the book Wade and his friends have a showdown with the giant corporation that reads like an epic action thriller. Who will win the hunt, the little guys who represent good, or the big evil corporation? Wade ultimately comes to his own conclusions about his future and how much human interaction he needs. And while this is not the most well written book, I applaud my book club and my friend Molly for continuing to challenge us with new genres of literature.
My prediction is that this will become a movie and the movie will be more popular than the book.
I also predict my book club won’t like this book as much as some others, but it will foster good discussion and we will all be glad to have read it.
I also predict that we will all grapple with this question of technology versus human contact but in the end the physical world will always remains the most important one.