Book Review: Ready Player Two
by Ernest Cline
Like many readers, I was veritably excited to hear that sequel to Ready Player One was in the works six years ago. The first book had been a nostalgic adventure through the memory lane of the 1980s and 1990s - a time period with much meaning for me. The author, Ernest Cline, had promised to use the same characters and modus operandi - taking them through another pop culture filled adventure.
The storyline for this book begins one week after the last one ends. Wade Watts, aka Parzival in the OASIS (a matrix-ilke internet), finds a next-gen headset that would allow a user to "plug" their brain directly into the OASIS network. In this way, a user can truly experience things with all five senses via messages sent directly into the brain. He and the others wonder at the amazing things this can do for humanity and release it to the world for broad use.
(SPOILERS POSSIBLY BELOW)
These actions 1) cause his girlfriend to dump him (okay, and his piss poor attitude) and 2) for a second treasure hunt quest from the OASIS creator, Halliday, to appear. In contemplating the "Seven Shards of the Siren's Soul" quest, Wade determines he will take it on. But, this time - cannot make any headway. Instead an underdog player Lohengrin, makes the first discovery and sets into the motion the remainder of the book.
Anorak, the avatar for the long dead Halliday appears and steals Wade's ability to control the OASIS via the robes of Anorak. Now, just plain old Parzival and the gang have to complete the quest in time to save all the ONI headset users in the OASIS...whom Anorak is conveniently holding hostage in a coma-like state.
Ultimately, through a series of luck, mistakes, teamwork, and brute force the team collects the shards and free Leucosia the avatar of Ogden Morrow’s late wife Kira, and Halliday’s lifelong obsession. They are able to trick and defeat Anorak, save most of the OASIS users, and win the Rod of Resurrection along the way.
The Rod of Resurrection then allows them to create avatars from the last known brain scans of any ONI headset user in OASIS. In this way they bring back Ogden Morrow who dies during this book, Samantha’s (Artemis) grandmother, and even create clones of themselves. The clones, whom they conveniently send into space to the next star system with frozen embryos to establish a new world…
(End of story and back to the review)
The novel itself reads much like the first. Fun dialogue, pop culture references, actions, riddles, twists, and young love. But, this time – much of it felt forced. Instead of allowing the subtlety of the anachronistic references to be enjoyed, you felt like you were being clobbered over the head with them. Then, the quests themselves felt formulaic – though I don’t know what formula involves seven incarnations of Prince in concert. It was a great idea, but it was almost like a rushed story that tried to just reap the benefits of book one fans rather than standing on its own two feet.
That all being said, don’t get me wrong. I still finished the book within a few days and enjoyed it. But, the enjoyment pales in comparison to the first book and there was little unique to this book.
Other have critiqued Cline for his gender norms and roles in this. Also the need of a fancy headset to allow men for example, to understand and empathize with women or minorities…instead of using the ability to listen and empathize in real life. But, I didn’t see that nearly as much. Instead I appreciated that Samantha/Artemis was more badass than any of the characters in there (she parachutes from an AI piloted plane taken over by Anorak!) and that the “savior” Wade was really just a boring nerd *no offense to any nerds out there, myself included.*
Definitely worth a library loan. Maybe the movie will be better in this case. But we shall soon see.
Speaking of libraries: Keep your local libraries open! Did you know that in the US, you can access your local libraries via your phone or computer? They utilize apps like overdrive, Libby, RbDigital, etc. to provide you FREE access to e-books on Kindle or Nook, audiobooks, videos, movies, magazines, and more. Did I mention it’s free? All you need is a library card. Go ahead and take advantage of it.
Okay all you cats and kittens out there,
Stay safe and successful!
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