by Abby Koch-Ernest Cline brings readers back to the OASIS and his dystopian universe with his sequel, Ready Player Two. Despite bringing familiar aspects and beloved characters back from Ready Player One, Ready Player Two is an empty shell and damaging to its predecessor.
Ready Player One, Cline’s 2011 debut novel, introduced readers to the future society of the 2040’s. People are plagued by an energy crisis, global warming, and economic issues.
The people escape the problems of the world by entering an 80’s–inspired virtual reality world called the OASIS, which was created by James Halliday. The OASIS becomes the most stable and reliable society that people can depend on. Halliday created clues before he died to lead to an ultimate prize of receiving complete control over the OASIS and billions of dollars for one lucky individual.
Ready Player Two picks up days after Wade Watts (aka Parzival), a human encyclopedia of 80’s and Halliday knowledge, becoming the recipient of the OASIS prize that he splits with his friends. Watts discovers technology that Halliday never released to the public called the OASIS Neural Interface, or ONI. This technology allows OASIS users to experience the virtual world with all five of their senses and the first-person experiences of others, from surfers to heroin users. ONI users have their brains scanned while using the technology and over–usage can result in severe brain damage.
Watts and two of his friends, Aech and Shoto, agree to release the ONI to society. Samantha Cook (aka Art3mis), a humanitarian voice of the group and Watts’ girlfriend, explains that the ONI would cause more problems in the world than what there is. This leads to arguments between Watts and Cook and ultimately to their break up.
ONI sales go through the roof, but Watts becomes a hermit within his mansion. Since the release of the ONI, a new Halliday riddle has been released to OASIS users. The riddle is about the quest of collecting the Seven Siren Shards, but collecting them seems damaging to Watts’ new found fortune.
Watts finds out what the riddle is about after finding the first shard with help from a player named L0hengrin. The shard reveals a memory about Kira Underwood, one of the founders of the OASIS who Halliday had an obsession over.
Later on, during a group meeting for Watts and his friends, a new foe reveals himself and traps the group and millions of ONI users within the OASIS. With the threat of millions dying of brain damage, Watts and his friends must find all seven Siren Shards in twelve hours.
Ready Player Two has many of the same narrative beats as Ready Player One. Except the virtual Willy-Wonka scavenger hunt story does not work this time around. In fact, it makes the journey the characters take less exciting and you begin to dislike them.
The reason the narrative doesn’t work twice is because Watts and his friends have it all now and it pushes them to become dislikable characters. For example, Watts is practically useless during this whole journey and has zero common sense about the consequences of his decisions. Watts also feels justified for invading the privacy of others and causing damage due to becoming insecure and being dumped. This feels off compared to the smarts he had and growing as a person by the end of the first book.
Watts also becomes very unlikeable due to the number of times he talks about no longer being a virgin. The number of times he mentions having sex becomes uncomfortable and becomes one of the things to not like about the main character.
Samantha is about the only interesting character within the sequel due to her consistent awareness of the issues of the real world. She is a big reason that Watts is even able to collect several of the shards. Cline ultimately destroys anything good about her character by saying she needs to apologize for criticizing Watts’ destructive actions.
Cline introduces a new group of characters that are with L0hengrin called the “Low Five,” who basically worship Watts and his group. This group of characters only showed up when it was necessary or when the main group needed help. It is a shame that this group wasn’t explored more and are used as forgettable plot movers.
Ready Player Two leans hard into themes of gender identity and sexuality. I do not have a problem with it, but Cline uses it in a way that is slightly odd and tries to make Watts and society seem woke. It feels wrong how Watts explores gender identity and becomes accepting through the use of virtual porn.
Cline repeats the same strategy of overly long explanations about certain 80’s pop culture. Ready Player One had the same problem, but Ready Player Two doesn’t justify the long explanations due to how dull the narrative is. It just felt like overly complicated hand holding.
It was difficult to get through Ready Player Two cause of a combination of the characters, dialogue, and plot. Most of the actions were predictable and I felt unmotivated to get through the book.
This is due to the pacing of scenes or collecting shards. Some of the scenes feel like they drag on forever because they would have looked better in a movie. On the other hand, a few moments for retrieving shards were exciting and felt well-paced. The interesting moments are very few and in between.
Ready Play Two takes everything good about the first book and throws it out the window. It made the complicated world of the future and interesting dystopian take into a snooze fest. There are not a lot of payoffs or gains from the first book and it is hard for me to find things that I enjoyed about Ready Player Two.
I feel like those who really enjoyed Ready Player One, which had its flaws, will absolutely dislike Ready Player Two. Anyone who wants to read about this fictional future should just stick with the first book. To anyone who wants to know about Watts and the crew after the first journey should just pick up Ready Player Two from the library or wait until it is really cheap at a used book store.
I give Ready Player Two a 3/10 excuses for problematic nerdy men.