While I loved Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One upon first reading, a subsequent reading didn’t do it any favors.
So, I have to admit I was a bit wary when I heard Cline was headed back to that RP1 universe with Ready Player Two. I wanted to believe that Cline could somehow capture the lightning in the bottle of my first reading of RP1.
Alas, I’m here to report that he couldn’t.
In many respects Ready Player Two is just a retelling of the story from Ready Player One. Yes, the stakes (such as they are) have been raised a bit, but it’s essentially the same story one more time — Wade Watts is given a task in which he must save civilization as we know it, via a contest put in place by Oasis founder, James Halliday. But where the first third of Ready Player One was about world-building and getting us to like Wade, the first third of Ready Player Two is about transforming Wade into an insufferable jerk, who by the time the quest begins I found myself wishing that something terrible would happen to him. Where Wade was relatable in the first book, he becomes unbearable in this one, with long passages that seem simply put in to prove he’s the world’s biggest expert on everything that has ever existed in pop culture.
At several points, I felt like I’d wandered down a bad sub-Reddit or YouTube thread, inhabited by those who believe they know better than the creative people creating content about what a particular franchise needs or wants instead of reading a novel. This may be why it took me so long to wade through the book (pun fully intended here) and why finishing it seemed like such a chore. Look, I wanted to believe in this book and to enjoy it. It just never happened.
This makes two novels in the last few months that I picked up on the basis of the author’s first book and came away disappointed by. At this point, it may be best to relegate Cline and Andy Weir to the status of one-hit wonders and not on the automatic “must-read” lead I placed them on after their first offerings.