I was incredibly excited for this book to come out. I was a big fan of Ready Player One despite its flaws as a debut novel. Unfortunately, Ready Player Two falls into many of the traps that a sequel is known to have. The following review may contain some spoilers surrounding plot and characters.
Ready Player Two took me much longer than I anticipated to finish. I thought it was going to be a book that I picked up and finished in a matter of days, but it took me over a month to complete. The book has one glaringly major flaw: pacing. The first several chapters rush you through the three years since Wade won the contest. It’s a big information dump that includes information I believe would be much better placed throughout the novel. It removes a lot of the mystery that could have been there. It also almost immediately establishes the story as fast-paced which means that for the next 366 pages the reader is in for quite the ride. The exact opposite happened.
It took a bit too long to get to the inciting incident and the appearance of the corrupted AI Anorak. The twelve-hour time constraint that is placed on the High Five is often forgotten throughout the novel and the characters don’t ever move with a sense of urgency even though it takes them the better part of twelve hours to locate the first five of seven shards. Somehow, they manage to get the last two shards in just under two hours AND also fight off an army in the real world. It didn’t make sense from a narrative perspective and it severely messed with the pacing of the overall story.
The thing that I loved the most was how Wade’s idealisation of James Halliday slowly unravelled throughout the story. It made for an interesting amount of character growth, but the story was very much still rooted in Wade and his own obsession with Samantha. Wade was simultaneously judging Halliday’s inappropriate obsession with Kira Morrow while being equally obsessed with his own ex-girlfriend. Wade never really learns anything from the situations he’s placed in. Not to mention, all of his friends exist as mostly 2D characters in the story.
Pacing and characters aside, I still enjoyed the many references to pop culture that were scattered throughout Ready Player Two. Cline possesses an intense knowledge of 80s pop culture and I found myself reaching for some of the films mentioned in this story. There was more of an emphasis on movies than video games, but gaming still found its way into the plot. I would love to make my way through all of the John Hughes films and I have this book series to thank for that.
I wasn’t incredibly fond of the ending of Ready Player Two. Everything was being tied up too quickly in a nice little bow. The choices that Wade and Samantha made weren’t entirely believable to me as a reader and I felt that their decisions betrayed their characters a little bit. It became clear that Wade hadn’t learned from the experiences in the past twelve hours. Unfortunately, the ending made the entire story seem redundant. Just as Wade appears to be learning from the events he’s been through, he makes a decision that undone all of that hard work. Not to mention that apparently the very high stakes that kept the High Five on track during this quest weren’t very high at all. Plot points were half-heartedly resolved, and I feel both the top and tail Ready Player Two could have benefited from a little more care and attention.
While I’d still recommend Ready Player Two to fans of the first novel, I’d suggest that new readers stick to the original novel. While my experience left me somewhat disappointed, I understand the value of a novel such as Ready Player Two in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature genres. I’m not usually one to reach for either of those genres in the novels I read, but as a video game nerd myself, it’s important to be represented in that way.
Ready Player Two addresses accessibility in video games, artificial intelligence, climate change, death, grief, loss, love, and obsession. It is ideal for readers in the Young Adult and New Adult age ranges, but is appropriate for all readers older than 18.