Ready Player Two
© Ernest Cline
Ready Player One remains one of my favorite novels, ever; for me it is the Starburst jellybean of books, a perfect sweet spot between geekery and pop culture. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Ready Player Two, and glad I am that I work in a library, a position that meant I began reading it before it was officially available in stores. I will do my utmost to deliver a review without spoilers; suffice it to say that RPT is a sequel in the same way that The Force Awakens is a sequel; it’s a flashier story with a very similar plot to the original, and one sometimes more interested in proving its authors hipness than offering the reader a good story. I ended up enjoying it, but 2/3rds through when I began considering what kind of review I’d do, I was about to make a comparison to Star Wars and The Star Wars Holiday Special.
Ready Player Two opens a week after the conclusion of RPO, when Wade discovers that James Halliday, creator of the digital world in which most of society lives and works, had hidden away another piece of revolutionary technology. Halliday urges Wade to be cautious and to consider Very Carefully if he wants to share it with the world: Wade, being a teenager advised by other teenagers, immediately starts to play with it and make it public, with dramatic results. Wade thereby unwittingly triggers both a second Epic Fetch Quest and a new enemy. Although Wade/Parzival would seem to have nothing left to gain by pursing another round of trivia memorization and monster battles (He already has complete control of the Oasis and All of the Money), the new enemy ensures that he does: nothing less is at stake than the lives of his friends and the entire world.
Those who read and enjoyed Ready Player One will feel a strong sense of deja vu as characters once again start prowling around various games and simulations inspired by the programmers’ obsessions, arguing with one another over fine details as geeks are wont to do. Ready Player Two draws on far more pop culture than tech geekery, with varying results; I found some of them absolutely tedious to read about, and some far more interesting. (Featuring prominently: the John Hughes cinematic universe, Prince, and Lord of the Rings). Until the end, frankly, I was largely disappointed in the book: the winsome combination of Ready Player One‘s attractions was off, or just not as magic as it was the first time around, and some of the characters did things without reason, or were being used for Cline’s preachiness to obnoxious effect — particularly Aech, who is That Friend at college who won’t shut up about their pet issue. In the end, however, Cline introduced several elements that mostly made the reading worth it. I don’t know that I’d re-read RPT, but it may add to future re-reads of the original.