The long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s Ready Player One was released on November 24th. Now, if you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know I pre-ordered my copy of Ready Player Two a month ago and patiently (I’m lying) waited for the release date. Well, it’s two days after the release date, and I just finished reading the book.
In response to my previous Ready Player Two blog post, in which I asked if the ten-year gap between the books was worth the wait…as I said in the headline: meh. About a quarter of the way through the book, I realized it lacked the ‘special something’ the first book had. Right from the onset of the first book, we readers knew what was at stake – winning the egg hunt and becoming the owner of GSS. In this new book, we don’t experience a sense of urgency until at least halfway through the book. Ready Player Two is simply an ‘OK’ book. I don’t think it was worth me losing a few extra hours of sleep to continue reading it last night, but I can’t turn back time.
Don’t get me wrong – the book didn’t suck. (Actually, yes it did) But with the significant success of both the book and movie versions of Ready Player One, I had high hopes for this sequel. Especially considering it took nearly 10 years to get the sequel. It’s not like Cline pushes out books like Stephen King or A.G. Riddle. With this much time between the books, it should be great, right?
Ready Player Two Plot Synopsis
Fast-forward a few years after the High 5 won James Halliday’s easter egg hunt. Nolan Sorento sits on death row. Wade Watts sits alone in his new house – Halliday’s mansion. A new easter egg hunt unfolds, and the High 5 must solve the clues to win the Seven Shards for the Siren’s Soul. What’s at stake? If the High 5 don’t find all seven shards, over half of a billion people will lose their life.
What I Liked About Ready Player Two
Cline once again proved his mastery of the 1980s pop culture, as Ready Player Two is absurdly riddled with it. I enjoyed those parts of the book, mostly since I understood nearly every reference. Obviously, no one talks like that in the real world of 2020, but in the world of Ready Player X, it makes sense. I suspect a big part of Cline’s personality blends into the conversations he wrote for his characters. I mean, come on, the dude owns a DeLorean Time Machine.
As I mentioned in a few of my recent Tweets, I consider Cline to be the sci-fi version of Dan Brown. They both excel at creating complex, intricately detailed follow-the-clues adventures. As I read Ready Player Two, I could tell which sections/chapters of the book Cline got most excited as he wrote. I have to assume he’s either a huge fan of Prince or conducted extensive research (or both) into “The Artist.” How else could he have created The Afterworld? What is easily the most detailed and lengthiest shard hunt jam-packs so many details on Prince. Kudos to Cline on that chapter, as it was fun to read. I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
Technological advancement continues to lead the way in the Ready Player X universe. Cline introduced a new method of entering the OASIS – via the OASIS Neural Interface, or ONI. Players put the ONI on their head, and it synchronizes with their brain to completely immerse them in the OASIS. Now gamers experience realistic touch, taste, heck all five senses, virtually.
The last thing Cline did well was describing Wade’s anxiety and depression. Obviously, these feelings are quite prevalent in 2020 and, in my opinion, he hit the nail on the head.
“I was too busy hyperventilating, thinking, This is all my fault, over and over again. After each repetition, I clenched both fists and pounded them against my forehead. I couldn’t make myself stop. This sort of thing had happened to me a few times as a teenager, but I hadn’t had a meltdown like this in years. And I’d never experienced one while logged into the OASIS. I’d also never behaved like this in front of Aech or Shoto or Art3mis either – a realization that only compounded my shame even further, and made me attempt to pound myself in the skull even harder. “Wade Watts
Wow. That’s some powerful writing right there – seriously.
What I Hated About Ready Player Two
After reading Ready Player Two, it’s obvious Ernest Cline could not develop the book’s characters in depth, especially on an emotional response level. This was most evident in the first third of the book. He ultimately speeds through filling the gap in time between the first book and this new one.
Here’s my list of gripes:
- Wade is still an emotional adolescent. Why? The events he went through in the first novel absolutely would have matured a young adult in real life. Let’s see…his aunt is killed, Daito is killed, his life is threatened, and a whole slew of other life-altering events. Cline missed an opportunity to develop Wade into a more likable character. Instead, I found myself disliking the Wade of Ready Player Two. A lot.
- Wade and Samantha break up within one week of being together (starting at the end of Ready Player One). That’s it – a week. With all they went through in the first book, it shocked me. It just didn’t make sense, and by that point, Cline started losing my interest.
- Daito is barely mentioned in Ready Player Two. I don’t get it. The rest of the High 5 should have mourned his death. Despite Daito being Shoto’s brother, I sensed no real emotion when Cline wrote anything that included Daito.
- At the end of Ready Player One, Wade says he “had absolutely no desire to log back into the OASIS.” In Ready Player Two, he lasted 9 days.
- The teenage High 5 just became owners of the biggest company in the world. They have zero business experience. It would make sense to add a bumpy transition of power as the kids learn to run the business. Did Cline bother with that? Nope.
- [CAUTION – MAJOR SPOILER] Ready Player Two ends with AI versions of the High Five, Og, and Kira aboard the space ship Wade, Aech, and Shoto built. They take off in search of a new planet. Dude, really? Cline doesn’t detail how the ship was built, as if it’s no big deal. My only hope is that this ending sets up the third book in the series that takes an entirely different direction, off Earth.
- Cline has two prologue chapters – ‘Cutscene’ and ‘Chapter 0000’ – before reaching the first chapter. He could have used these two chapters to bridge the gap between the two books before jumping into Ready Player Two’s plot, but he doesn’t. The author starts the new plot on page two. I don’t understand why especially considering Ready Player Two doesn’t really pick up a decent pace until well over a third of the way through the book.
Was Ready Player Two Worth the Wait?
No. I don’t envy Ernest Cline. Do you? Can you imagine the amount of pressure he felt while writing Ready Player Two? The odds were already stacked against him. My litmus test for a good book comes down to one thing: whether I remain wholly immersed in this book until I finish reading it. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case in Ready Player Two, especially in the first third of the book. I think the headline for Natalie Zutter’s review of the book on denofgeek.com sums it up perfectly: Ready Player Two Review: Ernest Cline’s Soulless Sequel Beats a Dead Horse.
Oh, Before I Forget:
BONUS 1: If you want to read a great two-book science fiction series similar to Ready Player One/Two, you should check out Daniel Suarez’s Daemon and Freedom. A word of caution, however. Suarez’s books are grittier and way more violent at times, compared to Cline’s books. With that said, I enjoyed Suarez’s two books more than I did Cline’s.
BONUS 2: Ready Player One Movie vs. Book
I know this seems out of place, but trust me, it’s worth going over this. Ready Player One (movie) experienced colossal box office success and released more recently than the book. I’m willing to bet you remember the film and not the book. There are a few significant differences between the two. Allow me to enlighten you and hopefully, you’ll enjoy Ready Player Two more than I did.
How Wade Made Money
Movie: When Parzival won each key, he’d receive a large number of credits, making him rich.
Book: After Parzival wins the first key, he immediately becomes a massive star in OASIS. Because of this, he picked up many corporate sponsorships similar to eSports teams get IRL.
Copper Key Challenge
Movie: Contestants compete in a Mad Max-style race through the heart of Manhattan in OASIS. Racers must avoid monsters like King Kong and the T-rex from Jurassic Park (thanks to Steven Spielberg directing). Parzival drives backward “real fast” and wins the race and the key.
Book: Parzival goes to the planet Ludus, where all of the OASIS schools are located. Here, Parzival plays “Tomb of Horrors,” a Dungeons & Dragons module. After he wins that challenge, he jousts against a Litch King, awarding him the key. But it doesn’t end here. Now he must find the first gate. Once he does, he has to recite the entire War Games movie stript as Matthew Broderick’s character David. Only then does he receive a clue to find the Jade key.
Jade Key Challenge
Movie: The High 5 enter a scary recreation of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Each team member completes a dance with Kira in the ballroom (with a bunch of zombies in the room). Aech freaks out, and hilarity ensues.
Book: Parzival completes the text adventure game Zork, which he finds and returns all 19 of Zork’s treasures. He then receives the Jade key. To reach the Second Gate (and the next clue), Parzival enters the Tyrell building from Blade Runner. He inserts the Jade key into the Voight-Kampff machine then wins the game Black Tiger. After this, Parzival receives a red five-pointed star from the cover of Rush’s concept album 2112. He heads to the planet Syrinx, finds the temple, plays a guitar riff, and returns the guitar to the altar. He then receives the Crystal Key and the clue for the Third Gate.
Crystal Key Challenge
Movie: Parzival plays the classic game Adventure. Instead of playing to beat the game, he finds the easter egg hidden in the game. You see, Adventure is the first video game to contain an easter egg.
Book: The High 5 crew head to Castle Anorak and realize they need three copies of the Crystal Key to open the gate. Once inside, Parzival plays Tempest and beats the high score of 728,329. Next, he completes a video sync challenge of Monty Python’s The Holy Grail as King Arthur.
How Wade (Parzival) Meets Samantha (Art3mis)
Movie: The pairs’ avatars meet early in the film, as they line up to compete in the Copper Key Challenge race. They meet in real life at about the midway point of the movie.
Book: The book version of Art3mis is much more popular than the movie portrays. Think of popular influencers like PewDiePie on YouTube and Charlie D’Amelio on TikTok IRL. Wade’s and Samantha’s avatars meet much later in the book than in the movie, albeit during the same scenario. They don’t meet in real life until the final pages of the book.
Movie: Daito lives.
Book: Daito dies.
Who Goes to the Loyalty Center?