Wade Watts lives in a dismal, dying future America. Cities are crumbling, swallowed up by poverty and crime, and the only escape for humanity is a vast online utopia called the Oasis, an all-encompassing version of today's Second Life where people (via avatars) can go to school, work, and play on thousands of virtual planets. When the founder of the Oasis -- a gaming-obsessed recluse named James Halliday -- dies, he hides a series of elaborate puzzles deep inside the game, promising his multi-billion dollar fortune to the lucky person who can solve them. The ultimate scavenger hunt ensues. Millions of Oasis users spend years struggling to decode Halliday's clues, most of which are based around obscure references to 1980's pop culture (Halliday's favorite). Creative, funny, and endlessly energetic, this book was a pleasure to read. The characters felt like old friends by the time I finished. As an admitted Facebook addict, I could relate to the tricky lure of a virtual world's easy fixes -- and I always enjoy a nice "geek makes good" story. The pop culture references were a lot of fun to unravel; while they didn't all resonate with me personally, it made me happy to imagine that somewhere, some reader was recognizing a favorite piece of nostalgia and, say, raising a Vulcan hand salute in appreciation.
Ready Player One will be published on August 16, 2011.