Review: Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
In 2011 I was captivated by the original Ready Player One and the vision of a future using pop culture references of the past. The whimsy that Cline put onto paper brought me back to the movies of the 1980s, like Stand by Me, where a group of friends come together and grow. The simple premise of a bad guy wanting more power is not unusual, but the original book’s lightheartedness brought a type of wonder I haven’t gotten since Clive Barker’s, The Thief of Always. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that same feeling throughout reading the sequel, Ready Player Two.
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Beginning days after the original, the book focuses on Wade Watts adjusting to life in Halliday’s home and the wealth he had procured from winning the original’s contest. However, that is a small part of the beginning. The book then goes into what happens over several years with the four heroes via Wade’s narration. The turmoil occurs regarding discovering a new tech piece that changes how end-users experience The Oasis, which involves deeper immersion that could cause harm to the human body if used for too long in the simulation. I will not go into any more of the main plot for spoiler reasons.
The book took a long time to get into the events that would lead to what made the original book so much fun. It wasn’t until around the 130th page before the antagonist’s plot suddenly was revealed, and the heroes from the original have to come together again. Still, this time there are direr stakes at hand that involve close to half the Earth’s population.
When the new contest/puzzle fully begins, there is a lot of fun to be had with the sequel. The contest now is less to do with The Oasis’s creator, James Halliday’s past, and more with the woman his business partner fell in love with and marries. Those who read the original, or the film, will know what I am referring. I would love to talk about the different locations visited this time around, but that would ruin the ride.
The pop culture referenced is not as apparent this time around, probably because Cline used much of them in the first book, which was fine because it allowed more to be written for Wade’s character development. However, I saw much more music references this time around than what I can remember from the original. Much of it doesn’t come in until they are in the Oasis procuring the pieces of a puzzle that they don’t have much time.
After mulling it over, three things bothered me about this novel, one of them was already discussed. The other two are the new and returning characters and the last chapter. New characters were introduced, but the ones I wanted to see more of seemed to face in the background to show another clan only for the leader to get more time-on-page. Even then, the individual appeared when it conveniences Wade’s mission and pushed the narrative forward. Another character was brought back from the original for no other reason than a significant part towards the end—they have nothing else to do with the story besides just being a familiar face and was a throwaway character.
Then there’s the last chapter.
I don’t even know how to talk about this chapter because it came out from the left field and made me more confused, wondering why it was necessary. It seemed like it was an afterthought for Cline, who had suddenly decided that he needed something to close out the story and have an excuse not to write another entry. I don’t want to say it was terrible, but I couldn’t help thinking the events Cline talks about in the last chapter could have been interesting as a story in itself. It just appeared to be an afterthought and severely rushed that could create confusion with readers.
Ready Player Two is not as extraordinary as the original, but that wasn’t the issue because it probably was never going to be. With the story being darker in tone, it was inevitable that whimsy wouldn’t compare as the stakes are higher this time around, with much of the world at risk instead of corporate head taking over the OASIS in the original. When the fun does come through, it’s great--you have to be patient until you arrive. Between the time it took to get to the point, the actual hunt for the clues, and the unnecessary last chapter, I can’t say it’s worth it. Much of Ready Player Two is a carbon copy of the original, and if that is what you are looking for, you will enjoy much of the book and don’t expect to like the end.
3.5/5-and I feel like maybe I am being too generous.