In this sequel to Ready Player One we return to Wade Watts after he’s won the contest to control Oasis, the virtual utopia created by James Halliday. Now he pretty much rules the world, virtually and literally, and has become filthy rich. But money can’t buy you happiness, something that Wade has already started to realize all too well. So even though he now has everything he could possibly want or need, he still wants to escape the real world. Maybe even more than before.
I loved Ready Player One, but since it was written as a stand alone, I was so surprised by this sequel and a bit skeptical whether I was going to enjoy Ready Player Two quite as much. The answer, sadly, was no.
It was such a slow start for me reading this book. The biggest problem was that Wade didn’t come across as very likable. He was mostly moping around, complaining about what he’d lost without admitting his own blame. In the first book, he was the geeky underdog that it was so easy to root for. Here, he’s turned into an easily offended, touchy and selfish person who even cyber-stalks his friends and abuses the powers granted to him as owner of the OASIS.
“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
After the initial very informative and slow chapters, the pace picked up after about a third of the book, and luckily had some of the fun, geeky vibes from Ready Player One. At this point it also fast forwarded timelines from just days after winning Halliday’s contest when Wade discovers a secret vault that contains a technological advancement and a new quest that relies heavily on knowing pop-culture references, to three years ahead when he still hasn’t solved the quest, but is more or less forced to due to threatening circumstances that will change both the OASIS and humanity forever.
“You guys all watched Swords Art Online and the Matrix films and yet you thought it was a good idea to hand over control of your brain to a computer?”
Unfortunately, the magic didn’t last for that long. Ready Player One had me hooked with its perfect mix of sci fi and 1980s pop culture references from fashion to music to games to computers. But this time around, the trivia facts were still there, but they came across as forced and added just for the sake of it, not by the same love and devotion as in the first book. In parts it also reminded me a bit too much of the Harry Potter series ending with the search for the shards that were very similar to the Horcruxes hunt. Ernest Cline even seemed to have thought of it himself by letting Shoto make this comment:
Shoto rolled his eyes. “We’re gonna be looking for Horcruxes next.”
Overall, Ready Player Two was entertaining, especially the middle part, but it didn’t recapture the magic of the first book.
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Ready Player One is a wonderful mix of 1980s nostalgia and a dystopian story set in a near future where mankind has basically ruined earth. With almost all resources depleted, people live in trailer homes stacked upon each other and struggle to survive. The only escape humans have is the OASIS, a virtual reality created by James Halliday. When Halliday suddenly dies without heirs a treasure hunt starts to find his hidden keys in the OASIS and gain the power over the game. The book is set five years after his death, when the player Wade Watts suddenly finds the first key. The entire rest of the book follows Wade and his fellow contestants through the game in their attempts to reach the goal first.
Since Halliday’s obsession was the 1980s, the keys all have references to 1980s pop culture – everything from fashion to music to games to computers. Being born in this decade myself, I enjoyed these references immensely!
I also really liked the main character Wade, and his squad with the sassy Art3mis (who is also his long-time crush) and the lovely Aech. They were all so relatable and loveable, and with distinct personalities.
The only complaint I have, is that I saw the movie a few months ago and actually felt that the movie was better than the book. Or rather, that they were two different stories. Well yes, they were both based on VR and the OASIS and Wade was still the main character and his squad was there, but all the important scenes had been changed. Like how they entered the competition, how Wade found the first key, how he and Art3mis and the others met, even how they won the competition and the entire ending, everything was different!
A thing that bothered me in the movie adaption though was the way they changed the characters appearance. I think a really important message in the book was the inner beauty and that they fell in love with each other’s persons not the looks. But most other things were better in the movie. For example, I liked Wade’s character so much better in the movie. In the book his and Aech’s friendship was not at all as strong and easy-going as in the movie. And the part in the book where Wade was hiding out alone in his apartment and turning from chubby to super-fit just felt out of place for the story line, so I’m glad that was left out completely in the movie.
But overall, this was such a fun and original story! Both the movie and the book were such a wonderful trip down memory lane. There were so many amazing details that went in to creating this story and the world building was so well done. And the characters were adorable. If you grew up in the 1980s, or if you enjoy video games and pop quizzes, you will absolutely devour this book!
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