I'm rating this book 4.5 stars.
Reading the entire book, the aspect of the story that stands out is the obsession this world has for their virtual reality life, to the point of complete isolation from anything else.
Wade spends months of his life with no contact with other humans or the world outside his apartment.
Although you may think that this is a fictional story that is exaggerated to make it compelling, some of this stuff is happening right now and the Hikikomori are described a little in the book.
Hikikomori are people who withdraw from society and live in complete isolation for long periods of time, playing games or reading in their room.
This is exactly what happens to Wade in the book and it is described very well throughout Chapter 0019, which is the one I enjoyed reading the most, as weird as that may seem.
Wade honestly explains his daily routine, from showering off all his body air to the weight gaining and desperation that lead him to buy a sex doll. Wade saw himself as 'an antisocial hermit.
A recluse. A pale-skinned pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact.
I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting his life on a glorified videogame.'
Of course in the end he ends up with a few friends, a girlfriend, and tons of money, but that's how the author chose to end his story.
The reality he depicts has no writer to make it end in a positive note.
At some point in the story I don't think they were enjoying the game anymore.
The exhaustion and isolation that came with dedicating every waking second to it showed on Wade (again, Chapter 0019).
It does not matter how much you love or want something, when you stretch yourself past physical and mental limits, it will not be worth it.
I think this is not talked enough in the book because Wade eventually pushes through and manages to get back on track with the game,
but many got lost in it and ended up committing suicide in real life (still in the story, not actually real life).
The way the Hunt was built was quite smart, especially the first key and the third gate.
The first challenge was made so that anyone could complete it, regardless of their avatar level and possessions, giving everyone a chance to continue with the Hunt by awarding them credits.
The third gate was designed so that only a player that truly enjoyed the game could win.
In doing this, Halliday was giving all the avatars in the OASIS a fair shot, but making sure that the winner appreciated the game enough to take good care of it in the future.
The writing is quite simple and allows for a quick read, but what really kept me in was the somewhat sinister tone in some parts of the story, such as Chapter 0019.
Also, Ernest Cline did not exaggerate in his descriptions of the places and references and that made the book not boring.
This is one of those preferences that are specific to everyone, but I cannot stand long descriptions of the same place, thing,
or whatever (let's insert and example: Twenty thousand leagues under the sea is a brilliant story, but every time Jules Verne wrote entire pages only naming different sea animals and plants, I fell asleep).
Parzival was not that good of a character for me, especially when his arrogance shined through and he became a very annoying teenager/young adult.
Wade behaves like an absolute idiot many times during the book.
Being first to the key makes him even more arrogant than usual,
but his ultimate moment of arrogant idiot was when he faced Sorrento alone when what he should have done was run to the gate and finish the damn Hunt. Idiot.
But really, he is a teen, barely scratching young adulthood, who had a shitty life, lost his entire family and was never really treated very well.
Wade wanted to escape his shitty life and transform his real self into his virtual one since the very beginning. I think that made all the difference.
Wade wasn't just an arrogant little idiot who wanted to give good one liners.
He was, like Halliday, trying to create his own world (in Wade's case, defend that world) after everything in the real one proved to not treat him very well.
Wade was lonely, even when he was a child and that is emphasized many times throughout the book.
This is understandable considering he didn't have a proper family that took care of him and gave him security.
Having said this, I see why he would feel like a legend after getting the first key. He was finally doing something that would give him attention and recognition.
To balance his occasional idiocy, however, we were given two brilliant characters, Samantha Cook (Art3mis) and Ogden Morrow.
A think that Art3mis is a much better gunter than Parzival and, although I understand why he was the main character and that he only found the egg with a lot of help from the other gunters,
I do wish that Art3mis was the one that finished the Hunt.
Art3mis was driven by good motives, she wanted more than a good life for herself and a solution for humanity's situation, she wanted to help everyone else along the way.
This may seem purely naive, but Art3mis knew how difficult and maybe impossible her dream for the prize money was and still fought for it.
She was incapable of giving up on everyone still living in the shit hole that Planet Earth had become and, in my opinion, she fought more for it than anyone else.
Art3mis was the first gunter to decipher the first clue and the only reason she was not the first to win the copper key was luck.
Parzival was lucky that his big ego led him, years early, to master that specific game just so he could beat Aech at it.
Art3mis was also the first to figure out the second clue and finish the respective gate.
In the very final challenge, where Parzival had to play Tempest, she proved once more to have a much better understanding of the subject they all obsessed about, James Halliday.
Apart from knowledge and skill,
Art3mis was very aware of real world consequences regarding the Hunt and sacrificed her relationship with Parzival when it was clearly distracting both of them from the Hunt.
As for Og, well what's not to love? He is a sassy old geek, capable of criticizing his own work and making people accountable for the problems in this world's Planet Earth.
Og chose to leave the company that he help build once he realised it was serving a completely different purpose than when it begun,
being now an escape for a population desperate to run from their decaying world. Og is a big voice of reason in the middle of a chaotic dystopian future and one of my favourite characters.
Knowing that Ernest Cline is writing a second book, I just hope that Aech gets some time to develop her story.
I did not like the way everything about her seem to be burped out in a hurry to tie it all up.
The magic of this book happens when its readers feel understood by characters that, like them,
have had shitty hands in life and are desperate for something that will make them forget their surroundings. You read it by yourself, but you don't feel alone.
Maybe that is the magic of every book.
Thank you for reading my rants. I will have many more in the future.