I loved every single word of this book. I actually read most of it with a silly grin on my face, even the seemingly boring info-dump bits that started off 'X was born in...' - it was just pure pleasure, especially the parts set in the OASIS (the avatar-populated artificial universe where most of the action takes place). I'm not even much of a geeky technophile - OK, I love computers, I'm a programmer by trade, and I confess to being one of the first people in the UK to own a Commodore 64, and I had a smartphone before the term was even invented, but I'm not a gamer in any way, shape or form. I recognised a few of the 80s games, hardware, music and film references, but most of them went right over my head. Didn't matter at all. The book is well enough written that anyone can play along. All the jargon and retro technology is explained along the way.
Plot? Well, there's a quest and a team of underdogs and an evil cheating group of corporate bastards and... well, that's about it, really. It just rolls along beautifully, and although there are no wildly unpredictable twists and turns, it never feels cliched. The lead characters are charmingly geeky and (initially) quite juvenile, and OK, they do seem to be incredibly good at everything game-related, but then that's the basic premise of the story, so it's hard to grumble about it. The author makes good use of the avatar vs real world persona problem - you just don't know anything about the people you meet inside the OASIS-verse, not gender, age, location, appearance - absolutely nothing beyond what they choose to show, and the reveals at the end are nicely done. Only one quibble here - the first person protagonist is initially the stereotypical geek, pasty-faced and overweight, but about halfway through he suddenly decides to get fit and ends up with a perfectly honed physique. I found it disappointing that the author didn't have the courage to leave him as he was. But it's a minor point.
The book would make a great movie. I actually wished I had a soundtrack to listen to (on 8-track tape, naturally) whenever a piece of music was mentioned, and it would be so much fun to actually see some of the OASIS-verse worlds. The final gate battle would be just awesome to watch on the big screen. But as a book - terrific. Five stars.