Ready Player Two (and kinda Ready Player One?)

Ready Player Two

Ernest Cline

When I started the blog, I said to myself I would try not to write reviews for books I didn’t enjoy. I’m already breaking that rule, and honestly, it’s so bloody hard to write something bad, I know it isn’t the nicest thing but this is my opinion and that’s what this page is for, right? You luckily don’t have to agree with what I write. Now to stop rambling.

I was and still am, an enormous fan of Ready Player One, it’s a flawed book, but it’s short and easy to read, massively entertaining and it was one of those books you pick up and you don’t put down until you’re finished. The demographic I fit into meant the book really appealed to me and tons of similar young nerds obviously felt the same because this book has done exceedingly well. Cline wrote a book filled to the brim with pop culture references and a constant feeling of nostalgia, the range of which meant this was a fun read whether you are fourteen or forty. Its characters were easy to relate to and enjoyable to read, they reminded you of the friends you had and people you knew. I could imagine myself as the main protagonist Wade and the surrounding cast, their decisions and views, their daily struggles and Wade’s poor attempts with women all sung out to me (Sadly). However, the story was what really sold it, what nerd hasn’t wanted to live in a virtual reality world, slaying monsters and going on epic quests? What teenager doesn’t want the power to change their appearance at will? Who doesn’t want the power to escape into a world that feels real? The book had enough great pieces to make it an excellent book and overlook its issues. It was a silly, over the top, escapist fantasy.

It was wonderful.

Ready Player Two isn’t good. It isn’t bad. It’s just very… bleugh,  and sadly this is something I wasn’t surprised with. Armada which Cline released in 2015 was an attempt to move away from the OASIS and build on the same audience as his first book, sadly it was lacklustre. I was excited for the potential of RP2 but was also ready to be potentially disappointed.  

At this point the rest of the entry has a few spoilers so read on at risk.

RP2 starts just nine days after the end of the first book, Halliday leaves Wade a clue which leads him to a piece of unreleased technology called the “Oasis Neural Interface” (ONI), this technology allows users to dive fully into the OASIS, not only experiencing this incredible world with all five senses, but also record their experiences in real life.  The adventure we get from this quickly becomes an attempt to replicate the successes of RP1, a grand quest that goes far and wide across the OASIS, new clues, new easter eggs, new enemies. But it does it worse.

The biggest issue for myself was the first act of our book ripping up our dear Wade and replacing him with something that feels like the bad versions of Bill and Ted from their most excellent adventure. Wade to put it politely is now an arsehole, he’s alienated himself from his friends, his relationship went to shit quickly, and he has locked himself up and become a hermit, abusing his power and wealth to be a pale reflection of what he so hated in the first book. I do understand what Cline was doing with Wade, his slow evolution into Halliday for him to then realise his mistakes and change before it was all too late, the classic redemption arc. Personally, I just couldn’t understand how Wade would have gotten to that point in the first place, the actions and person Wade became was to much of a leap from the Wade we loved.

Ready Player Two gets off to a bad start but I force myself to continue, Wade is no longer someone I want to read about, but our new quest has started, and we get a glimmer of hope, I suddenly  feel back at home as our new adventure begins in earnest. We delve into the action and we find out our Master Gunter, our all-knowing Gunter who was the first to find the eggs is unable to figure out the first clue after years. So instead of persevering he decides to chuck money at the issue, he casually tosses a measly 1 billion dollars as a prize for the information which is eventually scooped up by the “Low Five”; a group that idolises Wade and the gang even though the rest of the OASIS just spend their days talking shit about him now. Then what we are treated to is a quest that seems to be purpose built for the members of the High Five. Every world they visit, every fact they need to know, luckily, they know everything they need because it’s been a key part of their past or they seem to be the worlds leading expert in the area. As our story goes on, we find our excitement deflating as the story spirals into a mass of cliches and confusion. Here was my second biggest problem, and once I realised what was happening was the nail in the coffin, the quest, written about Kira, a woman that was a mystery in the first books, apparently had the exact same likes and hobbies as our four heroes, and this just felt like lazy writing.

Something I did enjoy about this story was Cline’s attempt at writing something a little more “grimdark”, this book felt darker than the prequel, his other books have dealt with issues like slavery and the extinction of humanity, but even so. I do call it an attempt because Clines later you find out that the threats faced weren’t quite what we thought but being a massive fan of people like Joe Abercrombie I love any attempt to go a bit more grimdark.

This was, in conclusion a poor copy of a great book and maybe something I wish hadn’t seen the light of day (this felt a little harsh to write but honestly is true) . I know plenty of people enjoyed this story for similar reasons that they enjoyed the first and I wish I could be one of those people. I also don’t want to continue moaning about someone’s work and passion and honestly writing this was hard because I’m fully aware I’m no great writer, this isn’t a perfect, this might even be a real shit review, I’m plenty flawed as well, but as I said, this is all just opinion.

I hope our tales of the OASIS end here, its time to let a story rest.