The story takes place in the near future (2044) where climate change has destroyed the economy as we know it today. There is more poverty than North America is used to and people escape their unhappy lives through a virtual reality version of Second Life, known as the OASIS.
The story begins five years after the "game" was revealed and no one has found the first key. Our narrator is Wade Watts, a teenager who lives in "the stacks", poverty stricken and living without his parents in an aunt's trailer. Life is not pleasant for Wade and he spends as much time as he can in OASIS within the relative safety of his secret lair buried deep within a pile of junked cars.
And yes, I got almost all the references and enjoyed this story very much.
I certainly recommend it. It is an easy read and flows quickly. There is not a lot of dialog but the narration is effortless.
The author's website is here: