This book is terrible even before you acknowledge the craven recursive layers of salable pop culture reference.
Why is this book terrible?
The protagonist is garbage. He shrugs off the death of his
Oh, it's a movie by now, they show it in the friggin' previews.
His family dies, and he blows it off like 'i didn't like them much lol' as if a half dozen children haven't just been murdered in front of him.
His best friend? A black lesbian who is forced by her own, what, self-loathing? Some odd repressive culture? To LITERALLY wear the digital skin of a cis-het white dude to fit in and have ANY FRIENDS AT ALL. Oh, she's homeless, too. Her arc, by the way? Isn't.
Oh, and here's the deal with the OASIS: It's become a de facto nation, with the most stable economy and currency on the planet. And at the end, Gandalf the Disappointing, the Willy Wonka ripoff the book is based on, gives the seventeen year old protagonist the power to DESTROY THE ONLY FUNCTIONAL PIECE OF A CRUMBLING GEOPOLITICAL LANDSCAPE because it's a video game, at its core, and Ernest Cline had to throw a bone to the wal-mart/target mom/aunt /gramma crowd who's gonna buy this to connect to their gamer child but secrety wish their gamer child would give up the games and play in the sun.
Want an analog? Imagine if at the end of the matrix, Neo was told that: A) the matrix keeps all humanity alive, and is essentially a giant life-support system, and B) he has the power to shut it off because it's a video game and we need to put games aside. Doesn't make any sense? Kinda disappointing?
SO IS THIS BOOK.