Chapters 0021–0023

Summary: Chapter 0021

Wade is immediately concerned about Art3mis reaching the Jade Key, not just because she is now ahead of him, but also due to the Sixers’ reaction. Wade details the purchase of unique artifacts in the OASIS, the two most expensive of which were the Cataclyst and Fyndoro’s Tablet of Finding. The Cataclyst was a one-time use bomb that would kill every avatar in a given sector, including the user. It was believed that the Sixers owned it. Fyndoro’s Tablet of Finding, which the Sixers had purchased recently, allowed the user to know the approximate location of one avatar in the OASIS each day. The farther the person, the broader the description from the tablet. The Sixers used it immediately after Art3mis acquired the Key and posted on the Scoreboard and moved a large fleet to Sector Seven. 

Wade is still confused about half of the clue for Jade Key but grabs his adventuring gear and boards his personal spaceship, the Vonnegut, to head to Sector Seven. He has what he admits is a weak guess about trophies that Halliday had earned that are one display in Sector Seven. Luckily, the Sixers have only narrowed the search down to the sector, which contains hundreds of worlds.

Summary: Chapter 0022

Wade arrives in Sector Seven in search of the Jade Key. His first stop is the planet Archaide, which is the largest video game museum in the OASIS. It houses recreations of many vintage video arcades, bowling alleys and pizza establishments. Wade wanders through the museum, housed under the surface of the vector-drawn planet, until he comes to the recreations of the Game Designer of the Year trophies that Halliday had won. They do not move and he cannot interact with them. 

Wade notices a Pac-Man machine with an “out of order” sign, which strikes him as odd. He wonders how a machine that isn’t real could be out of order. Wade plugs in the machine and notices that the high score in the game is 10 points shy of a perfect Pac-Man game, which Wade notes has been done less than twenty times in the history of the game and requires at least four consecutive hours of perfect play. Wade spends at least six hours, eventually accomplishing the task. Instead of a part of the contest, he receives a single 1981 quarter that he is unable to remove from his inventory. He receives a message from Aech, who has just acquired the Jade Key, that shows an image of a vintage game and a message that says that the Wade and Aech are even. Wade knows where he must go: to a nearby planet called Frobozz, from the game Zork.

Summary: Chapter 0023

Wade is concerned that the Sixers will beat him to Frobozz, so he sets his ship to autopilot and uses valuable resources to teleport directly to the planet. On the planet, there are 512 identical locations that are the setting of Zork. Wade is mad at himself for not connecting the clues to the game. He runs inside a white house and finds a box of Cap’n Crunch in the cabinet. He recovers the whistle and begins solving the elements of the game within the house. After twenty-two minutes, Wade completes the game and blows the whistle, which transforms into the Jade Key. 

Wade glances at the next clue, “Continue your quest by taking the test,” and runs to his ship. The Sixers converge on him and he barely escapes the zone. A war breaks out on Frobozz between the Sixers and the unified gunter clans. While getting his ship repaired, he emails Aech and both thanks him for his help and apologizes for being a jerk. As he expected, he sees Sorrento’s name join the Scoreboard soon after. To his surprise, he sees Shoto’s name appear, instead of a long list of Sixer accounts. While waiting for Daito’s name to appear, he is shocked to see that Daito’s name actually disappears from the Scoreboard, as Daito’s avatar has been killed.

Analysis: Chapters 0021–0023

An unfair competition between corporations and individuals unfolds as Wade describes the artifacts in IOI’s possession. The Cataclyst and Fyndoro’s Tablet of Finding are so powerful that Halliday’s egg hunt has become an all-out war with the scales tipped in favor of the Sixers. Given that these artifacts are so expensive, it makes sense that the Sixers are the only ones who could reasonably purchase them, which again emphasizes that whoever has the money holds the power. The gunters put up a good fight against the Sixers, but IOI’s disproportionate level of wealth, resources, and information are reminders that Wade’s chance of beating the Sixers is nearly impossible. Although Wade has earned fame in the OASIS, fame itself doesn’t increase his chances of winning the hunt. Perhaps fame will earn him the support of other gunters, but it isn’t worth much without resources. Despite the brute power of the Sixers and the unfairness of the competition, Wade’s sheer determination propels him forward in the hunt. 

Despite Wade’s slim chances of winning, he proves to be a tenacious underdog with a renewed commitment to the hunt. It is significant that Wade persists in the hunt despite the odds being stacked against him because this reveals his tenacity. When Art3mis passes Wade on the Scoreboard, this lights a fire within Wade and renews his drive to beat the Sixers. Although Wade’s path to victory is unclear, hope remains that Wade can rally and catch up to Art3mis by finding the Jade Key. His willingness to investigate his flimsy suspicions about the trophies in Sector Seven hearkens back to the beginning of the hunt when he was consumed with persistence, something that waned after his breakup with Art3mis. Although the Sixers have already swarmed Sector Seven, Wade’s status as an underdog foreshadows that his interpretation of the clue could launch him back to the top of the leaderboard. Wade sacrifices valuable resources for the chance to beat the Sixers to Frobozz, which also shows his renewed commitment to the hunt. Wade remains the underdog, illustrated by his narrow and unlikely escape from Frobozz.

The novel’s recurring theme of nostalgia is embodied in the planet Archaide. The nostalgia on Archidae makes sense because Earth in the year 2045 represents paradise lost. Although Wade has never experienced a different life, older people were born into a world where stability and prosperity were common. Older people watched society disintegrate and would understandably pine for it. The pizza places, bowling alleys, and video game arcades that Wade finds are relics of the past and not things Wade has ever experienced in real life, but they still represent happiness for many people. The Pac-Man game that Wade plays for six hours is another nod to nostalgia for older video games. It is significant that Wade is forced to play Pac-Man because it is a very primitive arcade game;  OASIS is a simulation that is lightyears more advanced than Pac-Man. The value of the single 1981 quarter he earns isn’t immediately clear, but the fact that he can’t remove it from his inventory tells the reader that it will have some future use. 

When Aech gives Wade a clue for finding the Jade Key, it emphasizes his generous and caring personality, which sometimes contrasts with Wade’s tendency toward selfishness. While Aech does what he believes is right by sharing the clue with Wade, Wade has a history of pulling away from Aech to focus on advancing himself. Aech continuously makes himself available to Wade despite their rivalry. Aech’s decision to stick by Wade also shows that he is more mature than Wade and is a more reliable friend. When Wade finally apologizes to Aech, it shows that Wade is beginning to mature and understand the value of their friendship.