Title: Ready Player Two.
Writer(s): Ernest Cline.
Narrator(s): Whil Wheaton.
Genre(s): Science Fiction.
Publisher: Random House Audio.
Release Date: November 24th 2020.
Length: 13 Hours and 46 Minute.
My Overall Rating:
With his debut novel Ready Player One, author Ernest Cline blew up in fame as he offered the ultimate 80s geeky escape to readers looking for an unhealthy dose of nostalgia and action-packed entertainment. It only took a movie adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg for the world to go mad and feverishly develop a curiosity for all the music, movie, and video game references jampacked into this story. It also only took a blockbuster adaptation orchestrated by one of the most revered directors in cinema for author Ernest Cline to motivate himself to write a sequel that will eventually get a film adaptation. However, that can’t possibly be a good source of motivation to deliver solid story-telling material, right? Or can he prove the world wrong and give us an authentic and exciting ride into this world of virtual reality?
What is Ready Player Two about? Set after the Easter egg hunt introduced by the Oasis founder James Halliday, Wade Watts finds himself exploring his superabilities within the virtual reality that he now controls in the palm of his hands while his friends from the High Five crew are off dealing with their own personal issues and goals within the real world. Convinced that there were no more mysteries for him to uncover, he makes a discovery that flips his world upside down, leading him straight into Halliday’s secret vault where lies an undisclosed technology that can lead to unbelievable implications on humanity, for the best or for the worse. Chained to this surprise is also another Easter egg hunt that catches the attention of a treacherous rival who would do anything to get their hands on this grand prize, even putting countless lives at stake.
“If it weren’t for Tolkien, all of us nerds would’ve had a lot less fun during the last ninety years.”— Ernest Cline
Talk about a one-trick pony. Where there’s a guilty pleasure in discovering the author’s mindless infusion of references, the lack of authenticity, style, and creativity sends this story straight into a virtual tornado, rarely giving his world the chance to find its footing and explore novel story-telling ideas. Instead, the prose is continuously overwhelmed by references, hiding the lack of heart and soul in the author’s writing, and focuses on a narrative copy-pasted from the first book, eagerly hoping that the reader doesn’t notice its issues. The pacing also strongly contributes to the flawed storyline, with the better part of the first half forcing down the reader’s throat the pros and cons of this infamous technology and how it will have repercussions on the real and virtual world (not missing a couple of opportunities to mock real-life issues in an attempt to sprinkle hints of a cautionary tale within this science fiction adventure). The second half then grabs you by the ear and drags you through a déjà vu Easter egg hunt as if the author just remembered how this structure worked well in the first book and couldn’t hurt if it was rehashed once more.
What turned out much more frustrating was the protagonist’s personality. Within the first couple of chapters, author Ernest Cline transforms his hero into a money-blind, arrogant, selfish, and despicable runt who got carried away by fame and glory and loses touch with the values that made him much more relatable in Ready Player One. In fact, to speak of a transformation would be too much considering that said transformation happened spontaneously, out of the blue. Furthermore, his character serving as the vessel to convey social commentary was absolutely ill-advised as his elitist and ridiculous wealth made his perception of the world completely biased and borderline inappropriate. While his voice became void of weight to the reader, the recurring cast and the latest addition also seemed shoe-horned for the sake of diversity and worked against the author’s intention and attempt at inclusivity. Fortunately, the simplicity of the story’s core mystery regarding this final Easter egg and the trivial geeky escapism that it offered made for a tolerable and somewhat amusing ride but its issues are more than obvious and difficult to ignore in the end.
Ready Player Two is a frustrating yet addictive sequel that further explores the Oasis and its virtual reality wonders and issues while drowned by the author’s overwhelming obsession for references and nostalgia.