The sequel to the bestseller Ready Player One takes place days after Wade Watts wins OASIS founder James Halliday's contest. Watts makes a discovery that changes everything. Hidden within Halliday's vaults, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the OASIS a thousand times more wondrous—and addictive—than even Wade dreamed possible.
Ready Player Two brings out the dangers lurking in the whole schema of its predecessor ... Is the Ready Player universe just a giant nostalgia trip through a graveyard of pop-culture icons? No, because Mr. Cline is highlighting the dangers, not falling for them ... In the game of life (says Mr. Cline, finally) you must always reach for the next and unexpected level. His books offer a great mix of exciting fantasy and threatening fact.
Picking up the threads of the first book just a few days after that action ended, the sequel exudes the same charm and fascination as the original. Characters, tone, voice, all beautifully replicated, continued, and extended. But Cline does not merely push all the same buttons once more. How could he, given the vast climactic, life-altering victory enjoyed by its protagonist, whereby he jumped from lowest of the low to highest of the high? Instead, he levels up to new challenges and themes, while recreating the world we came to enjoy with new depth, as he exfoliates both the virtual universe of the OASIS, and the perpetually collapsing meatspace environment ... the propulsive action carries us along like a white-water rafting expedition, to a conclusion that is unforeseen and utterly satisfying.
Cline's writing style, with frenetic pop culture references of the video games, movies, tech, TV shows and music of yesteryear, remains the same ... It feels more like geekery gatekeeping than a showing off of knowledge and attempts to display diversity in the race and gender identity of the characters rings hollow, almost offensive ... Most glaring is Watts is rather difficult to root for the second time around ... But if this is a redemption story for Watts, it's incomplete and unearned. Convenient plot twists are convenient at every step of their quest, and even when Watts must pay for his mistakes, it's as if the fast-forward button keeps getting pressed and we skip over the hard bits ... If Ready Player Two were a video game, it would be a side-scroller pushing you forward in the timed action and never really allowing you to explore the map ... 2/4 stars.