What do you do after you’ve already won trillions of dollars, gained infinite power, and all of your dreams have come true? Do you vacation at Bora Bora? Do you solve world hunger? Or do you use your powers to hunt down people in a virtual reality world and slaughter your critics?
Wade Watts is back, and he is whinier and creepier than ever… and even worse; now he’s rich and entitled. Wade is now the CEO of the world’s biggest gaming company, one of the richest beings in existence, and the most powerful user in the virtual reality world of the Oasis. He also has access to everyone’s private data; their real names, their real locations, and their home security cameras.
When Wade’s not spying on people as they sleep, he’s hunting down player avatars in the virtual reality world of the Oasis so he can use his administrative super powers to smite the evil doers who have… said something mean about him in online forums?
Wait; Wade is supposed to be there hero of this, right?
Wade has gained everything he has ever wanted, but he’s still not happy. Things aren’t going the way he wants them to, and without the big contest giving him something to work towards, he’s lost his motivation and goals. But, when a massive update to the Oasis triggers a new competition written by Halliday, Wade pulls himself together and gets back to Guntering… eventually… as soon as someone else comes forward to claim the Billion Credit reward Wade has offered to anyone who could solve the first riddle for him.
Wade and his friends return to their Gunter roots when a new competition arises. They’re back to running around like headless chickens trying to solve new riddles and finish new quests in a new adventure Halliday created before his death. They have to explore new worlds and civilizations to collect seven shards from seven world to… do… something. Unlike the last competition no one knows why they’re sloshing about all these worlds trying to solve more riddles. The introductory riddle that started it all never said anything about what the end goal was, or anything about a reward.
But, true Gunters don’t care about the reward, they’re in it for the adventure! Sort of!
Wade doesn’t seem too invested in the contest, even going so far as to offer a massive reward to anyone who can give him a lead on it. When the contest seems to take too long, an old friend goes rogue and takes just a few hostages to force the High-Five (The collective name for Wade and his friends) to finish the quests that they were already going to eventually finish… But faster. If they don’t get the task done within the time limit, they, and all the other hostages, all die. For real. No respawn.
Those are pretty high stakes.
There is a Love Story sub plot that takes place alongside the main story, but it feels forced and unnatural. In the beginning, the relationship feels right. You can definitely see and understand the circumstances of their relationship and how it developed, but it suddenly shifts for absolutely no reason when the threat arrives. How it went from point A to point D in the blink of an eye is a mystery.
All the main characters from the first book are back, except for Daito, and a few new faces make appearances as well. Wade, as mentioned, is extremely creepy and seemingly depressed. His thoughts and actions are weird and concerning as a reader, making it difficult to really be on his side. He’s a massive elitist, and both full of himself and full of self-doubt at the same time.
While Wade is problematic, Samantha is a little too good. There’s nothing that can stop her or get in her way, not even Wade. She spends most of her time traveling the world and doing good. When the poo hits the fan, she’s the only one who finds a way out, and she never says “I told you so!” even though it’s entirely justified; because she’s just too good for that.
There doesn’t feel like there is a great deal of character progression or development. Everyone is pretty much the same person at the end of the story that they were when the story began. I mean, Wade does stop murdering people in the Oasis, and loses faith in his Hero, so that’s good.
Oh, Aech and Shoto are also present… and they both get their own, brief, spotlight.
The writing is basic and simple which makes it an easy read. It manages to get the point across and keep the story moving, but at several points in the book it’s easy to get distracted by the regular use of the word “then”; A thing happened, then I did a thing, then he did something, then another event took place, then, then, then. There are whole sections of the book where events are described like an excited kid who just came home from the zoo; “I saw a lion, then I saw a bear, then I had ice cream, then Jason fell into the crocodile pit.”
Ernest crammed as many pop culture references into this book as is humanly possible, but they can hardly be called Easter Eggs this time. While the first book would drop a line and you would feel clever and turn to Stark and Banner an happily declare “I understood that reference,” this book grabs you by the face and shoves your nose into the reference. Whenever Ready Player Two makes a reference to something nerdy or nostalgic, it follows it up by explaining the connection as clearly as it can.
“The license plate said fresh and there were dice in the mirror, just like in the opening scene of the early 90’s television series, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
I just made that line up, it’s not in the book, but it sounds like it could be.
I… enjoyed it.
I know, it doesn’t sound like I enjoyed it, but, despite the fact that this feels like a work in progress, and the fact that I barely liked the main protagonist, and that one sentence and one paragraph are rather problematic; I genuinely enjoyed reading this book. I loved the nostalgia of it; throwing out references to everything that made existing in the 80s and 90s enjoyable. I enjoyed listening to geeky characters be geeky about geeky stuff. I actually enjoyed the story, the quests, the humor, and the resolution. It entertained me and it made me laugh, and that’s what a book is supposed to do. It’s not going to be a literary classic, but it’s going to live on my shelf and I’m going to recommend it to my nerd friends.
Just like the first book, the audiobook of Ready Player Two is performed by Wil Wheaton, which just adds an additional layer of nostalgia and geekiness to it. He performs the book well, sounding like a friend recounting a vacation for thirteen hours… but, an exciting vacation you’re actually interested in hearing all about!