Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Tye Sheridan in "Ready Player One," the movie adaptation of Ernest Cline's best-selling novel.

March 3, 2021

This Game Didn’t Need Multiplayer: ‘Ready Player Two’ Book Review

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While it does not quite live up to the legacy of the original, Ernest Cline’s recently published sequel to the bestselling Ready Player One, Ready Player Two, is a nostalgia-filled trip to sink your teeth into this winter. 

Building off the success of the first bestselling novel, which also became a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, Ready Player Two delivers the same — perhaps overly so —  action-packed, deep dive into eighties pop culture as the original. Wade, Art3mis, Aech and Shoto are back, now as the multi-billionaire owners and leaders of Gregarious Games, the company that manufactures and controls the virtual world of the OASIS.   

As such, they have access to all of the enigmatic OASIS founder James Halliday’s secrets, including a new piece of technology that promises to revolutionize the way players experience the simulated universe. The OASIS Neural Interface (ONI for short) device connects directly to the user’s brain, allowing them to not only see the OASIS, but feel, taste, smell and hear it as if they were actually inside it. With this technology, the virtual world of the OASIS is not so virtual anymore.

As one can imagine, the release of this technology changes the landscape of the OASIS forever — and comes with problems of its own. This is the one area that I think the sequel actually does a more satisfying job than the original. In the first novel, the OASIS is billed as nothing more than an escape, and Wade’s hero-worship of its creator, James Halliday, borders on full-blown, rose-tinted glasses obsession. Where the first novel really only hinted at Halliday’s flaws, Ready Player Two does not shy away from actually dealing with them. 

Wade must come to terms with the fact that the OASIS is not — and has never been — necessarily a great development for humanity. In a world where virtual reality is far more pleasurable than the real world, everyone is content to let the world deteriorate. With the development of the ONI technology, virtual reality becomes reality itself — a move that could hold disastrous consequences for the planet. In Ready Player Two, now that Wade and the rest of the High Five have positions of actual power, these concerns become even more important.      

Because of this plot choice, I liked Wade’s character development throughout this book. While much of it did seem forced and at odds with his depiction in the first novel, Cline allows Wade to grow, make mistakes and learn from them. He is by no means a perfect character, as he is often blinded by his love for the OASIS at the expense of his relationships, but he learns to look beyond that and realize that just because you grew up with something and have loved it for the majority of your life does not mean it is without flaws. The OASIS has both good and bad in it — and that’s okay. As the author shows us, you can always learn, always change your mind and become a better person than you used to be. 

On the whole, if you liked Ready Player One, you will probably like Ready Player Two. Cline extends the story in a way that feels just as formulaic, but also somehow just as relevant — even though it’s somewhat sloppily executed at times. It is interesting to see how the lives of the High Five have changed since they became multi-billionaires and celebrities overnight. 

Ready Player Two expands the world of the original, squeezing in yet more elements of popular culture — a seemingly impossible feat given the sheer number of references in the original — and discovers more tucked away corners of the OASIS than I ever dreamed were possible. If you’re looking for a nostalgia-inducing book to spend a few days with this semester and you have read Ready Player One, Ready Player Two might be worth checking out.

Jessica Lussier is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at jll335@cornell.edu