by Ernest Cline. An excellent sequel to Ready Player One. It picks up and develops characters and themes raised in RPI. This will be a mostly spoiler-free review, as RPII was just published and I don’t want to reveal any of the surprising plot twists.
The novel starts off rather slowly with Wade (Parzival) reporting on some astonishing technical advancements made by the company GSS now owned by him, Samantha (Art3mis), Aech, and Shoto. The new technology had been developed in secret by James Halliday, whose heir Wade has become, because of the quest he solved in RPI. The new technology makes the Oasis even more addictive and Wade and Sam have a falling-out over his use of it and because Wade, Aech and Shoto vote to market it. I rather liked this estrangement between Wade and Sam as I’d found their relationship not very believable in RPI. Wade spends a lot of time regretting the fact that his life has gone nowhere while his three friends have found worthwhile careers and/or fulfilling relationships. But soon a new quest arises, again left by James Halliday, and the novel picks up speed and becomes as thrilling a page-turner as the first installment.
The themes of the dystopian near future are again touched upon and at first it seems no different than before: people hide in the Oasis from their dismal non-virtual life. However, there’s an interesting twist at the end of the novel that brings hope for the planet while showing a good balance between virtual and non-virtual existence (I don’t want to be clearer, as that would be a spoiler). There’s also an important new theme about artificial intelligence with an interesting twist on how AIs could come to be (although I don’t know if the idea of the novel will ever be possible, but it’s certainly intriguing).
During the new quest, Wade at first is the only one of the four friends engaged in it, and he doesn’t make much headway. But he gets a hint from some new friends that helps him solve the first step. And, once the stakes are raised because the Oasis and its users are held hostage under a strict time limit (meaning, they will all die if the quest isn’t solved in time), the friends reconnect and work together to save everyone. It’s engrossing and has the plot twists and pop-culture trivia like the first novel. I especially like the part of the quest that takes part on a world based on the tales in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion. Aech, Shoto and Art3mis (Samantha) each have a much larger role to play in RPII. They can shine with their pop-culture specialties – without them Parzival (Wade) would have had no chance to finish the quest successfully on time. They also helped in RPI, of course, but most of the ideas came from Parzival. In this case, they collaborate on an even level, which is heart-warming.
The development of the relationship between Parzival (Wade) and Art3mis (Samantha) is also nicely done. Each of them shows their stubborn side, but when things are dire, they work together, find that they still have feelings for each other, and both change so that their relationship becomes a lot more stable and believable by the end of the novel. As a Tolkien fan, I really enjoyed the quest the two of them had to complete in his world. It seemed very fitting.
So, I found Ready Player Two at least as good as Ready Player One. I’d been slightly worried that I wouldn’t like it, but I think it has a lot of new ideas mixed in with the exciting adventures in the Oasis that the reader is already familiar with from RPI. The beginning may be a little slow, but it soon picks up the pace. The ending is creative and very hopeful for the future of the entire dystopian world (not only for the four friends). And, I’m sure there’s enough material for a third novel. I, for one, would look forward to it (not that I’ve heard anything about a sequel).
Keep safe, world.