The Future is the 1980s
It’s young adult fiction, but every page is a 1980s pop culture reference, be it a sci-fi movie, fantasy novel, or pixel arcade game.
Ready Player One stars a boy named Wade, who technically lives in a stacked pile of broken-down mobile homes, but actually spends all his time in a virtual reality universe. His goal is to win a Willy Wonka-esque contest left behind by the deceased creator of said virtual reality universe, which requires him to be an expert in everything nerdy from the 80s.
Overall the plot plays out in a very straightforward manner. The characters aren’t very well-developed, and there isn’t much being said in terms of themes either. The story does go into great detail for its setting though, which I imagine would be enjoyable for fans of MMOs. The author works with some interesting and fun concepts, but there’s this sense that he is conflicted about how good or bad it is for everyone to be living in virtual reality. On one hand, it’s a lot of fun and the protagonist makes some good friends and has a big adventure. But on the other hand, the real world’s economy, government, society, and environment have all gone to shit. The book chooses to just keep its focus on the virtual reality adventure though, in which our heroes must defeat the corporate big-wig opponents of VR net neutrality, Ad Blocker, and 4chan.
I personally got tired of all the referencing and info dumps pretty quickly, so this isn’t a book for everyone. But if a nostalgia-filled virtual reality adventure story sounds like fun to you, then you might get a real kick out of it. Look forward to the upcoming film adaptation, directed by Spielberg.