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Book Review

Ready Player Two (2020)

Ready Player One will always hold a special place in my heart.  Not only was it because it was a great novel based on the idea of video games and  VR, but because it’s something on my online dating profile that caught the attention of a girl, who eventually ended up being my wife.

While the movie adaptation of the book lost a lot of the nuances of the characters, I still found it a enjoyable and fun movie. Spielberg might have not been the best choice for a director, but seeing as the writer couldn’t have John Hughes direct it, it seems like the next best choice for him. Ultimately it was his story and the choices for it were his to make and I still love seeing what an on screen version of the Oasis was like. 

But that has nothing to do with the out of nowhere sequel to the book, called Ready Player Two. It was only announced a month or two before the book came out, and dropped late into November of 2020. I don’t follow books very closely, nor have I read a lot of them and finished many that weren’t AutoBiographies or History books. So I was surprised to hear that Ernest Cline wrote a sequel, as I didn’t think the first one warranted a sequel. Maybe it was a decision based on his second book, Armada, which most people seemed to not like very much. Either way, it was a surprise to me.

This time I opted to both read the book along side listening to the Audio Book, once again preformed by Will Wheaton. Will gives another great performance as he doesn’t just read the book aloud, but also preforms the voices for each individual character as well. Each voice is distinct and varied enough, while still sounding like Will and never sounding too forced or silly, with just right right about of nuance and style to make it interesting. 

Continuing on with the story just about a week after the events of the first book, Wade Watts, also known as Parzivel is sole heir to the Oasis, or basically the Internet and the worlds largest company. Instantly becoming the richest person in the world and along with the rest of the High Five gang, they become over mighty mega celebrities. 

The story basically takes Wade through another type of hunt, more along a Dungeons and Dragon’s type Quest to resurrect something called the “Siren’s Soul”. 

Changing the quest type to more of an adventure table top game setting did make me feel like it removed a lot of the video game aspects of the story and references, but that isn’t nessisarily a bad thing. It allowed more new items and adventures to happen instead of being a rehash of the same thing from the first book.

The real joy of the book was the new and inventive way of continuing the Oasis. What new invention was going to be used to make the Oasis seem new and exciting from a reader’s point of view. I didn’t really think about it till I read it, and when I did, I thought it was the perfect way to continue the Oasis while improving on the ideas.

Back when the first book came out, the idea of a VR world and internet were still kinda laughable. VR wasn’t even a thought on most minds, and then along came the Oculus Rift. And in the time since, we have the makings of and get to see the Oasis become a bit more realistic of a goal. And now VR has been gaining more traction and more and more people are experiencing it for themselves. 

So the real question was “we’re do you go from there?”. The ONI Headset. Wade learns from Anorak, the creator of the Oasis’ digital form, that a secret headset has been kept in the companies vault and can make the user experience VR like it was real life. Being able to feel, taste & smell in virtual reality was the new add on that really got me invested into the book, and immediately held my attention the whole way through. 

The new worlds of the Oasis used in the book do move away from video games and more into other media. While I was initially bummed out, I didn’t mind it as much as I thought I was going to. The Ready Player series is already a gigantic love letter to all of Geekdom than just Video Games anyways, bust with this story serving more as a deep dive into movies and music more than gaming culture.

As with the original novel, the writer, Ernest Cline pushes his own political and personal believes and agendas a couple times, and while it’s his book and he can do what he wants. It feels out of place and brings the story to a screeching hault. The few times he dives into it, it feels like either pandering to a specific set of people, and alienating the other. Especially when that character who is brought in doesn’t have a large role to play and appears at the end as a “Deus Ex Machina” more than a character to flesh out the story. 

Other than that minor small gripe, I really enjoyed Ready Player Two, and the references and Pop Culture tie ins never felt heavy handed and wasn’t just the wink and nod that others think it is. There seemed to always be a purpose behind the mention of a movie or game. 

By the end of the book, all the loose threads are tied and there is a decent wrap up for all the characters, and doesn’t leave any room really for another sequel. Which is fine by me. I think a third book would just feel more forced than anything as I don’t see how or why continuing any other character’s storylines would be interesting. The Ready Player universe has been told and explored well enough, and I’m excited to see what Ernest Cline does next.