It was a story about me, or, at least, I saw a lot of me in the main character. A lovable high school loser who loved video games and movies of a bygone era. He related and compared his life to that of the characters in the game and movies he loved so much. Then, throw in there the most savage scavenger hunt ever conceived for the ultimate prize. “‘Willy Wonka’ meets ‘The Matrix'” as so flawlessly described by USA Today.
Nine years later and after an abysmal film adaptation, the sequel to the NYT bestseller brought about an older Wade “Parzival” Watts living the life of a recluse billionaire; hidden away (though not ignorant) from all the major issues of the world that seem to be worse than ever. Along with the older Wade comes a different OASIS experience known as ONI that gives the user a seamless experience that gratifies the senses so intensely, it fools the user’s brain into thinking it’s real.
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!!! DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK YET!!
James Halliday is long dead, but his spirit and digital ghost suddenly returns as “Anorak,” the wizard NPC from the first story that emerged after Wade found the three keys and cleared the three gates of the original contest.
Now, instead of a helpful guide, he is an all-powerful, nearly invincible avatar that has pinned Parzival and every other OASIS user using the ONI in the world into a neurological prison with an all-new impossible series of riddles; but this time, Wade only has 12 hours to complete the puzzle or risk neural overload.
The new series of riddles are all based on the life of Kira Underwood, Ogden Morrow’s widow, whom Halliday was obsessed with her entire life, and then his. Wade, as the winner of the first contest, is the only one capable of finding seven shards all revolve around Kira’s life, tragedies, and experiences.
Many familiar faces have returned along with some new ones, but the core of the story revolves around the dynamic between Wade and Samantha (Art3mis). Once lovers now having gone different paths with what to do with their fame and fortune.
The plot and themes of the story have matured along with many of the characters and the last three chapters left me with an incredibly familiar hypothetical in many other science fiction stories, but argued and presented it in a way that I had never considered that left me staring at my ceiling for over an hour after I had finished reading simply contemplating; allowing the story to live on for just a bit longer. It was almost as if I had been wearing an ONI myself all along and I just wasn’t quite ready to log out yet.
“Ready Player Two” is another Ernest Cline wonder with many (though not nearly as many as before) pop-culture references and charming trivia that drove the story and the characters wild just the same. Cline’s voice and tone matured well for his older, yet familiar characters in a way that was refreshing and believable. I highly recommend this book if you enjoyed the first one, but be warned, it’s much darker.