I had expected Ready Player One to be a good book, I've heard too much about it not to, but this was one of those rare times where my expectations were reached. Maybe even surpassed.
Ernest Cline's book isn't super unique - a millionaire dies and the winner of a contest receives his fortune - but I love the fact that the contest is based on 80s culture. I like the 80s, but some of these clues are obscure even for me. Didn't matter though, the narrator did a great job of explaining things.
In this case, the contest takes place in in a huge virtual reality and the contest is public. Participants are followed on the news, seeing one person succeed gives hints to the others, and it's not just individuals who are looking to win. The dead millionaire is the creator of the VR world and his competitor company throws some serious weight around in order to win - both in the virtual world and out.
I love that the contest is public, it adds an extra layer of tension and competition, but I also love how the contest is not the sole concern of the main character. There's a decent amount of relationship issues, both friendship and romantic, that the contest puts pressure on. It adds a layer to the book that balances with the hunt nicely and helps turn this into a fast page turner.
Since I read this, I passed it along to two friends and they both finished it in days. Despite the tiny print. But it's always hard to put something down that's got intelligent action going on with high stakes and a dash of teenage romance.