Chapters 0017–0020


Summary: Chapter 0017

Wade as Parzival has a dialogue with Art3mis. Initially, Art3mis tells Wade that they shouldn’t talk or spend time together, since they are competitors. Wade wins her over and tells her that he has always had a crush on her and that he hopes that she isn’t a 53-year-old man who lives in a basement. Art3mis assures Wade that she is a girl in real life. Wade talks about using some of his free time to get his avatar to level ninety-nine, the maximum level allowed in the OASIS. 

The chapter continues with Wade spending more and more time in the OASIS with Art3mis, neglecting the newest clue for Halliday’s egg, and growing apart from Aech. Wade does figure out part of the clue, which refers to the toy whistle that was available in Cap’n Crunch cereal that was used to hack phone systems, but he is no closer to figuring out how to apply it. While Art3mis refuses to give Wade further details about her personal life, they continue to go on virtual dates in the OASIS, including an evening watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where they kiss. The chapter ends with, “then one night, like a complete idiot, I told her how I felt.”

Summary: Chapter 0018

Wade receives an email invitation to Ogden Morrow’s 73rd birthday party, an exclusive, invitation-only dance party. Wade says he cannot pass up the invitation, although he admits that the location of the party is in an unrestricted player-vs-player zone, so his avatar could be attacked and killed, forcing him to start over. He knows Art3mis will attend, so he dresses his avatar in a gray suit from Buckaroo Banzai and arrives in a flying DeLorean. He meets Art3mis inside the club, which is a giant, zero-gravity sphere. Ogden Morrow’s avatar, The Great and Powerful Og, is the DJ, playing dance remixes of 80s hits. 

Wade and Art3mis dance together and Wade professes his love. Art3mis reminds him that he doesn’t actually know her, and they argue about it. Art3mis tells him they should take a break because they have been spending too much time together instead of working on the contest. Both become emotional. Before they can resolve their dispute, a swarm of heavily-armed Sixers break into the club and attack everyone, specifically Wade and Art3mis, since they are at the top of the Scoreboard. Wade and Art3mis fight back, but eventually Ogden’s avatar destroys the intruding Sixers. Wade looks for Art3mis in the aftermath. She gives him a last glance before leaving.

Summary: Chapter 0019

Wade wakes up in his apartment and narrates his daily routine. After having a hard time coping with Art3mis leaving him, he has installed a digital assistant to keep him motivated. His digital assistant is a recreation of Max Headroom. Wade reflects on having let his hormones dictate some of his decisions, feeling guilt over having owned a realistic, robotic sex doll for a week, before discarding it, as it turned out to be a major distraction. The first part of Wade’s day is an exercise routine that is monitored by his computer. His diet is also regulated by his computer. To gain access to the OASIS, he has software that locks him out until he has done the requisite amount of exercise. Wade has also purchased the best OASIS gear available, including a full haptic suit, and installed a two-layer metal security door. Over a few months, Wade loses weight and is in the best physical health he has ever been. At the end of the chapter, the reader finds that his login phrase for the OASIS has changed. It was formerly a line from The Last Starfighter. It is now the opening lyric of a They Might Be Giants song, “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.”

Summary: Chapter 0020

Wade describes his stronghold in the OASIS. He used his credits to purchase a virtual asteroid and has built an armored dome on it with a full command center. With complete access over who can visit, it is the only place in the OASIS where his avatar is truly safe. Wade describes a new OASIS feature that has been added, personal OASIS vidfeed, where users can create their own television channel. His channel runs 80s shows, music videos and movies, along with commercials from his sponsors. 

Wade mentions that Art3mis has cut him off completely, despite his best efforts to contact her. He talks about trying to reconnect with Aech, but the two no longer trust one another, and they often argue. In the meantime, he has befriended Daito and Shoto. He found a quest that revolved around the Japanese Ultraman TV show and invited them. The reward was the Beta Capsule from the show, which would transform the user’s avatar into Ultraman once a day, for three minutes. Instead of selling it and splitting the money, Wade insists that Daito and Shoto keep it. Wade also describes how he has a job working at an OASIS call center, using the credentials of his fake identity. After his boring work shift, he returns to the OASIS to discover that Art3mis has found the Jade Key.

Analysis: Chapters 0017–0020

Wade and Art3mis grow closer, but tension arise as the two try to balance their relationship with their rivalry. Art3mis keeps her identity secret as a way to keep the upper hand in the relationship and protect her chances of winning the hunt. Art3mis’s refusal to share her real identity might be due in part to Wade’s failure to respect her boundaries. This failure to respect boundaries increases the tension between them. Art3mis refuses to be vulnerable, but Wade allows himself to be vulnerable to her, which suggests he is more concerned with their relationship than their rivalry. Wade’s vulnerability serves as a reminder that Wade is a normal eighteen-year-old boy with typical teenage weaknesses and not just a famous gunter. Wade begins to decipher the latest clue for Halliday’s egg, but his lack of focus threatens to be his downfall when he lets his feelings for Art3mis cloud his judgment. 

The recurring theme of reality versus illusion is evoked during Morrow’s birthday party. When Wade receives an invitation, the reality of his real life is submerged by the illusion of his life of fame in the OASIS. Wade attends because his need to feed into this illusion overrides his better judgment. This theme is further emphasized when Wade professes his love for Art3mis, and she insists that he doesn’t actually know her. Perhaps their relationship is an illusion and is not as real as Wade believes it to be. The attack by the Sixers brings Wade back to the reality of the hunt and reminds him that he still is not safe and that he should shift his focus away from Art3mis. Once Art3mis leaves Wade, he again struggles with his real-world isolation. Wade’s focus on bettering himself through a strict daily routine gives him a way to regain control of his true reality. Despite having all the greatest OASIS gear, losing weight, and regaining focus, the reality is that Wade remains isolated and alone. 

Wade’s OASIS stronghold represents his effort to establish some level of protection for himself and control over his life. The stronghold gives him a level of control over his life that he’s never previously experienced. The armored dome is a metaphor for the walls that he’s built up to protect himself from others. The vidfeed Wade establishes is another measure that allows him to attempt to control the way that others see him. When Art3mis cuts off Wade and Wade retreats from Aech, he needs to build up his external fortress to distract himself from the pain and loneliness he feels inside. Although Wade establishes this stronghold to protect himself while he focuses on the hunt, it exacerbates his isolation and loneliness. No amount of control over his situation can bring joy back into Wade’s life.