THERE'S BEEN A LOT of squabbling online lately about what exactly defines a "geek." When 90 percent of summer blockbusters are based on comic books and beautiful actresses regularly out themselves as nerds on late-night TV, something has clearly shifted in terms of how once-scorned pursuits are now perceived. And, of course, some lifelong geeks are up in arms that "their" culture has been appropriated.

If you find yourself identifying with the preceding paragraph, go find yourself a copy of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One IMMEDIATELY, because you've clearly forgotten how to have fun. This book will remind you: Cline's first novel is an unabashed celebration of geek culture that ingeniously marries sci-fi, young adult, and pure, uncut nostalgia.

In 2044, an oil crisis has devastated the US economy and most people spend their time immersed in an online artificial reality called OASIS. When the wealthy designer of OASIS dies, he leaves his fortune hidden inside the game, with only a few cryptic lines of verse hinting at its location. The only other lead: The man's well-known obsession with the movies, science fiction, videogames, and pop culture of his youth.

Eighteen-year-old Wade Watts is one of thousands who devote themselves to the study of the geek culture of the late 20th century in hopes of finding the key to the hidden fortune. From Pac-Man and Dungeons and Dragons to Spaced, Firefly, and Monty Python—if it's geeky, it might be a clue. As Wade and his friends struggle to solve the puzzle, they're racing against a dangerous corporation that's determined to win the fortune—and ultimate control of OASIS—for itself.