Lauren Molyneux reviews Ready Player Two, the sequel to one of her favourite books, Ready Player One, which was made into a film in 2018
Ready Player Two
Ernest Cline’s international bestseller, Ready Player One, which also found its way onto the big screen in an adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg in 2018, now has a sequel – one which was arguably the most eagerly anticipated novel of 2020. Having established an intriguing story world filled with incredible virtual challenges, identifiable and likeable characters, and a plotline that got the heart racing, Ready Player One, being the addictive, unputdownable book that it was, was always going to be a tough act to follow. And, whilst the promise of embarking on another adventure in Cline’s dystopian world will be so exciting to fans of the first novel in this series, its sequel, Ready Player Two, unfortunately misses the mark.
In Ready Player One, we followed Wade Watts and his associates on an adventure quest like no other, as they navigated the vast virtual terrain of the OASIS in search of its late creator’s legacy – a series of Easter eggs which, once acquired, promised to change the winner’s life forever. Appealing to the geekiest of geeks, with countless references to 80s pop culture, Ready Player One was a beautifully constructed piece of escapism, nostalgic and enchanting, which demonstrated science fiction writing at its best.
Ready Player Two sees the return of Wade and his friends – this time with Halliday’s prize money, new roles at the head of Gregarious Simulation Systems, and a brand-new, full-immersion piece of tech at their fingertips, which will prove to make the OASIS even more wondrous, and addictive, than they could have dreamed possible. By plugging into the ONI (OASIS Neural Interface), users will be able to see, feel, touch, taste, and smell all that they experience in the OASIS, but connecting the device to the brain isn’t without its risks.
With a riddle to crack which will lead them to Halliday’s final Easter egg – one which only his heir can acquire – the group embark on another virtual quest together. But when they encounter their most formidable opponent yet, it soon becomes clear that it won’t simply be their avatars facing the danger. In fact, half of the world’s population will be under threat.
Whilst the quest format remains intact as Wade and his friends search for Halliday’s final Easter egg and the mysterious prize it hints at, somehow (and perhaps ironically) it’s not quite as immersive this time around. With clunky and cliched phrasing, and a plotline which develops at a peculiar pace, with mammoth tasks overcome in a few short sentences and a surprising lack of detail in the moments, which really matter to the story, it seems that, in this instance, Cline has lost his touch. At times hyperbolised, unrealistic and completely out of tune, and at others simply disengaging, it’s surprising when we consider the two novels were written by the same person. With the characters underdeveloped and the storyline rushed, Ready Player Two bears almost no comparison to its predecessor, and, disappointingly, falls short.