I thought I'd do my a book report - after all, I've had nearly 20 years to read for pleasure without draconian literature professors forcing me to write about it!

I'd been hearing about this book in some of the various podcasts I listen to, and, always in search of a good read, I checked it out.

To save you from reading the jacket cover (or the Amazon page - it's the internet age, after all), I'll give you the rundown: The year is 2044, and the world is in the midst of an energy and financial crisis (a little too close for comfort?)  Everybody escapes real life by immersing themselves in a virtual reality world called Oasis.  

Oasis was created by a man who grew up in the 1980's, and, on his deathbed, announced that he had hidden a series of puzzles inside his creation. The person who solves the puzzle will be rich and will win the right to control Oasis.  The protagonist is a teenager who takes the lead in solving the puzzles.  Of course there's an evil corporation trying to win the prize too, as well as an attractive albeit mysterious love interest.  Actually, everybody has a little mysteriousness going on because they all know each other as avatars within their virtual world.

The intersting part is the Oasis creator's clues revolve around the culture of his youth, especially the geek culture of that era.  As a consequence the youth of 2044 become obsessed with the latter half of the twentieth century and spend inordinate amounts of time "studying" Pac Man, Schoolhouse Rock, and John Hughe's movies.

Some parts of this book really struck a chord for me.  The inventor of the Oasis was born in 1972 (as was I), so it seemed like it was tailor-made for a 39 year old nerd who came of age in the 1980's.  He mentions receiving a Atari 2600 in 1979 (as did I).  There are even references to storing data on analog tapes, Dodge Omnis, and paying 93¢ a gallon for gas (freaky coincidences, or has the author been stalking me?).

Was it a good book?  Well, to be honest, the writing of the book reminds me of the style I see in fiction aimed at juniors.  Perhaps it's because the main character is a teenager, but it seemed a little strange because the book is obviously going to be most enjoyed by people in their late 30's.

However, it's hard not to enjoy all the references to things I loved in the 80's , some of which I haven't thought about in quite a while:

TV Shows: Family Ties, The Greatest American Hero, Airwolf, A Team, The Greatest American Hero, Misfits of Science (does anyone besides me remember that one!?), Buck Rogers, Silver Spoons

Video Games: Pitfall, Zaxxon, Galaga, Q Bert

Movies: War Games, Real Genius, Better Off Dead, Evil Dead, Vision Quest, Explorers

However, the author doesn't go into much detail about most of these. In fact, it's almost as if he made a list of all the things he loved and wrote a book around it.  In some ways it feels a little like I was being manipulated, as if the author thought the mere mention of these subjects would stimulate some nostalgic pleasure center in my brain.

But, of course it did.

AuthorTodd Zarwell