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His name is Wade Watts.

If that sounds like a typical hero's name in a comic book adventure, well, that's exactly why his dad picked it. But that's about the only way orphaned Wade feels like a hero these days.

You see, Wade lives with his aunt in an over-packed and decidedly dystopian Columbus, Ohio, circa 2045. It's a squalid trailer park where cheap, tin tenements are stacked vertically. It's the kind of place people go to great lengths to escape mentally, even if they can't do so physically.

That's why the virtual reality game OASIS is so beloved worldwide. In this vast, ever-morphing online universe, you can do anything and go anywhere you please. You can ski down the pyramids, soar with your own wings, climb Mount Everest … with Batman. It's an incredible place. And it's the only other way that Wade can feel like a hero.

As the avatar Parzival, Wade logs as many hours as possible in this almost indescribably astounding digital reality. In fact, it's more real than real, if you ask him. And it's all thanks to the late gamemaking guru James Halliday.

Ah, but that's not the only thing this great man gave to the world: He also gave people like Wade … a purpose. When Halliday passed, his virtual image was projected far and wide, inviting every OASIS member to enter into three trials for three keys. And those keys lead to an in-game Easter egg that rewards its finder with about 500 billion bucks.

Oh, and complete control of OASIS itself.

Of course, these challenges are mysterious and difficult. In fact, the first one—a stupefying tough road race—is virtually impossible. No one has even come close to finishing it. That's not to say Wade and his fellow gunters (short for egg hunters) aren't continuing to try. For that matter, even corporate entities are in the hunt.

Innovative Online Industries (IOI)—led by corporate bigwig Nolan Sorrento—has hired an army of skilled gamers and researchers to seek out any clue from Halliday's history, to grab any slight technological advantage. Sorrento is nearly salivating over the chance to bring Halliday's empire under his corporate banner and to inject OASIS with the very element that Halliday hated most: advertising!

Wade, though, knows that IOI can never win. Halliday was too brilliant to leave the virtual door even slightly cracked for a dirtbag like Sorrento. No, it'll be a gunter, if it's anybody. After all, this is nothing less than a war for control of the future. It'll be someone completely immersed, completely dedicated to Halliday and his creation. That's the only way the egg will be found. It has to be a true believer, a hero.

It has to be someone with a real-world name like Wade Watts.

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