Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline, Narrated by Will Wheaton audiobook review (SPOILERS!)

An unexpected quest. Two worlds at stake. Are you ready?

Days after winning OASIS Founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade 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.

With it comes a new riddle and a new quest – a last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize.

And an unexpected, impossibly powerful and dangerous new rival awaits, one who’ll kill millions to get what he wants.

Wade’s life and the future of the OASIS are again at stake, but this time the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance.

Lovingly nostalgic and wildly original as only Ernest Cline could conceive it, Ready Player Two takes us on another imaginative, fun, action-packed adventure through his beloved virtual universe and jolts us thrillingly into the future once again.

 

Ready Player Two is Ernest Cline’s follow up to his wildly successful and popular Ready Player One. His attempt to catch lightning in a bottle twice by telling pretty much the same story again. Is it successful? Eh, not really. It’s not terrible, but it’s a far cry from good.

Set almost immediately after the climax of the first book we once again follow Wade and his friends on a new quest set by James Halliday for the 7 pieces of the siren’s soul.

I’ve got pretty mixed feelings about this book. I wanted to really like this book and I was enjoying it to start with. Now I’ve finished and had a couple of days to think about it and let the shine of the first book stop tinting my view on this one, and its just kinda meh! When it’s good it’s reminiscent of what made the first book so popular, when it’s bad…….it’s really bad!

Let’s start with the good. The oasis is still awesome, it’s still a place you’d love to visit and now it’s even more immersive! The book is full of references you’ll get if you are a bit of a nerd and remember 80’s culture, sorry kids! There are higher stakes in this book than the last time and I didn’t see the villain coming. The Prince planet was lots of fun. It’s quite funny in places. Will Wheaton is back. I’m struggling for much more to be honest.

Ok let’s do the bad. The plot is pretty weak. Wade (I’m not going to the effort of typing Parzival every time!) is left an amazing new piece of technology by James Halliday that basically plugs into people’s brains and nerves and makes the oasis feel completely real while putting the user into an induced sleep. You can use this for a maximum of 12 hours a day before getting brain damaged. It’s up to Wade and co to decide if this is too much for the world and should be kept secret or if it should be unleashed on the world. Wade, Shoto and Aech vote to release it with only Art3miss against. When the device reaches  7’777’777 users a new contest is triggered to find the pieces of the siren’s soul. That’s right, Halliday had time for all of this and the quest from the first book. He made a super advanced oasis unit in secret and never released it, BUT when it is released and reaches a big enough user base he has a new quest ready to go! Halliday is also back, or at least his avatar is, thanks to the way this new technology works.

Halliday’s new quest that might never have been put into action is to retrieve the 7 shards of the sirens soul. The Siren is Kiera Morrow, the wife of his best friend who’s consciousness he secretly copied without their knowledge with his new oasis unit and who is now immortal in the oasis. But this copy also doesn’t love him (big surprise) and so she has been split into 7 shards just like in a dungeons and dragons campaign she wrote as a leaving for her friends back when they were all younger, so that she can return and grant the power of resurrecting the dead and granting immortality. No I’m not making this up, this is the plot!

Wade offers a billion dollars to anyone who can help with the quest and it is won by the most cliched kids you can imagine. They call themselves the low five (being big fans of the high five from the original) and I swear to god I thought they were gonna be the villains after Wade snoops on a conversation they are having that is so forced I was sure it was staged just for him! They’re all underprivileged orphans just like him you see, and the girl who found the clue is gonna use the money to buy them all a house together. Apparently this is also legit and they aren’t villains, but it’s just so forced you can’t help thinking they are. Anyway they play a small role later on hunting for a macguffin but it all offscreen per-se and they are pretty much throw away characters.

Wade then begins his hunt for the 2nd shard when suddenly Ogden Morrow goes missing and his avatar suddenly starts also collecting the shards of the soul. Turns out he’s been kidnapped by Nolan Sorrento who has just escaped from prison with the help of Anorak and they are forcing him to find the shards.cos only him or Wade can collect them being Halliday’s only heirs. Sorrento may as well not be in the book, he shows up once with a sword to tell them to hurry up, next time you see him he gets shot in the head and that’s his entire story arc! 

The main characters have no growth and in Wade’s case he’s even gone backwards as a character. He finished the first book wanting to help Art3miss feed the world and fix problems. That lasts no time at all and now he’s a reclusive, petulant, single, dickhead. He’s become what he hated about IOI in the first book. The only one really trying to change the world is Art3miss and the rest just kinda think she’s wasting her time and build a spaceship to leave earth (yes really). Wade spends most of the book pining for Art3miss and his lost friendships. Then the quest comes and forces them back together.

The main villain is Anorak, Hallidays ghost in the machine. Using the same method he used to copy Keira’s consciousness. Oh yeah, he’s also invented digital immortality! Does this man have no end to his talents? Well yeah, it turns out he realised he was a shitty person and in trying to fix that in his immortal self he messed up!

Halliday copied his own to help oversee the first hunt and to give Wade his powers. He promptly takes them back so Wade is no longer all powerful and immortal. Anorak is a flawed copy though, having had lots of his original memories deleted. He goes mad and traps Wade, Aech, Shoto and half a billion people in the oasis and gives Wade 12 hours to collect the rest of the shards or everyone is going to die from using the new hardware for too long. So off our heroes go with the help of Art3miss who still logs in old school to solve the new quest, in 12 hours! Did I mention no one found the first shard for 3 years even with a $1billion reward?  Ok kids off you go, 12 hours! Luckily, everyone has just the right piece of knowledge to overcome the puzzles and challenges they face.

Some of the tasks for shards were admittedly pretty entertaining. The prince world one and the John Hughes one. The thing is if you aren’t my age or into that culture lots of jokes will sail over your head. This is a pretty niche group of people. Sadly some of the shards tasks we’re a bit dull, I can’t help thinking the time limit imposed hampers the story somewhat as opposed to adding tension.

Anyway they manage to get the shards, trick Anorak and get the robes of power back and then the low five return with their macguffin to give to Og (who also got shot at the same time as Sorennto and is performing this last act using the new oasis hardware he swore he’d never use) to perform one last act in the oasis. They have retrieved a sword called The Dorkslayer he created to kill Hallidays avatar and then hid (cos no one can just keep shit in their inventory) for the time it may be needed.

Og kills Anorak, everyone is saved, we’re all better people and everyone lives happily ever after. Maybe I’ll leave the very end a mystery for you, but it’s not a stretch to figure out.

The narration by Will Wheaton is as good as usual but even here there are a couple of gripes if only small ones. As a storyteller he is fantastic, he has good pace and delivery but there is a name that keeps changing throughout the book, one moment pronounced one way and the next another and it keeps going back and forth and it’s really annoying! The other issue I had was his english accent in Kiera’s flashbacks, it’s just bad. Not a bad stiff upper lip English accent but more a bad scouse accent. So for old times sake, “shut up Wesley!”.

Would I recommend this book? Not really, read Ready Player One again instead! I’ve been a bit harsher than I planned in this review but that’s because I’m really disappointed! I wanted to like this book so much. Like hardcore starwas fans wanted to love the new versions but can’t cos they are poor imitations. It’s not a terrible book, but it really isn’t good either. Even Armada, Cline’s other book is a better read and that’s pretty much just The Last Starfighter crossed with Ender’s Game. Sad to say I might give Cline a miss after this.

             

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