From nerd fame to online trolling hate, I feel sorry for Earnest Cline’s attempt to return to the OASIS that made him famous. Cline caught lightning in a bottle with his first book. He made a new yet familiar story that played to fandom nostalgia while pushing the genre forward through the big tech of that moment, virtual reality. Who wouldn’t want to go to the OASIS and live in a virtual world free of real world problems? No pollution, guns, death and judgement of your appearance (and if you do get judged, you can always change your avatar). After reading social sites and user reviews on READY PLAYER TWO, players clearly weren’t ready for a second round.
Instead of actually moving the plot forward in READY PLAYER TWO, Cline decides to turn the first lengthy six chapters into a philosophical debate on cancel culture and the effects of technology on society. In the hands of Bill Gates, this might be interesting but through Cline’s writing, it makes for a forced snooze fest.
When the book finally decides to move the plot forward, we get the same story structure of the first story with more emphasis on the hardcore sci-fi elements instead of just being sci-fun. I longed for more zany moments with our protagonist Wade Watts in Prince world driving off in a red Corvette while wearing a raspberry beret. Making matters worse, Watts has become a jerk in the sequel and should’ve spent more time in virtual therapy sessions with Robin Williams from GOOD WILL HUNTING. Readers are stuck hearing his pining thoughts for the majority of the book leading up to the completely unearned and cliched happy ending.
READY PLAYER TWO fails its sequel requirements and doesn’t improve upon what came before it. Instead, it's a lesser than repeat of the first book's story making this the BIOSHOCK 2 of the READY PLAYER world.
It’s available via Audible with the great Wil Weaton performance.