3.5 stars. A really fun story, just don't think too hard about it.Wade is a kid with all the typical escapism story kid troubles. His parents are dead. His guardian is abusive. He has no friends and people make fun of him. So he spends much of his time escaping into OASIS, a virtual world that actually is supplanting the real world in most ways. And within OASIS there is a sort of Holy Grail. The creator of the software left a game within the VR world, and the first person to win it gets money and control of OASIS. Naturally, Wade and his friends are trying to find the trailhead for the game in this Willy Wonka-esque setup. And of course, it wouldn't be an escapism style story if there weren't a cartoonishly evil bad guy who all but threatens to get you and your little dog too.The developing story of Wade and his friends figuring out the clues and defeating the gates as they move ever closer to the prize was the best part of this book. Ferreting through details of 80s culture in an attempt to work out the riddles was entertaining and fun. The story touched on all the plot elements one would expect from this VR style Indiana Jones-style story, but like most formulaic adventures, its all about the ride and the ride is good.However, like I said, just don't start looking too hard, or you realize some real shortcomings in the writing. the worldbuilding is scanty, developed only as far as needed to service specific plot points but otherwise unexplained and, in some cases, outright confusing. And the characters also suffer from the same thing, with their personalities only being developed in as far as their quirks and experiences service the plot. The result is most of the characters feeling kind of flat, more like archtypes than people. On the other hand, the 80s references, while not problematic per se, were definitely overused and, unlike the worldbuilding or character development, were thrown in with no eye toward their effect on the greater work. They come and go like butterflies and are usually just as inconsequential. I kept waiting for, say, the Delorean cosplaying as Ecto-1 to make a return appearance or have something to do with anything, but it never did.Due to both of these things, I personally found it very hard to relate to Wade, our main character. He's detatched from reality, living his entire life in OASIS, and I expected that to be the focus of character growth. But then some of his reactions... he's really mild over the murder of his guardian and the one person in real life he sort of likes. He's vague about his feelings on them attempting to kill him. He's flat about his contemplation of suicide. The closest he gets to a recognizable emotional response is when a friend is killed. His 'love' for Art3mis feels more like a crush playing out. It feels like there's something deeper wrong than just isolating himself online. And in the end, getting to know her in real life is, I suspect meant to symbolize his ability to step beyond the online world and follow the advice he was given at the end of the final gate. but it *sounds* like she's the only thing really keeping him outside OASIS, so if they don't work out, what reason do I have to believe he won't just let himself get sucked back into OASIS?But on the bright side, its an easy book to shut off the part of your mind that nitpicks these things and to just enjoy the ride.