Book Review: “Ready Player Two” by Ernest Cline

Strap yourselves in and buckle up, kiddos, because you’re about to go for a long ride.

Wade Watts, also known as Parzival, has become the biggest troll in the universe. After winning Halliday’s Easter Egg Hunt (along with his three friends, Samantha, Aech, and Shoto), he’s become a multi-multi-billionaire overnight and has access to Halliday’s secret invention – the ONI, a sensory device that plugs directly into your brain in ways that people never thought were possible. People are spending more time online than ever before, Samantha has broken up with Wade after just ten days together (if that), and Wade doesn’t see a single problem with releasing the ONI technology to the public.

I see why so many people say they quit this book after reading the first chapter (I’m unsure if they mean the prologue or the actual first chapter, because both are bad), but I feel like Ernest Cline really just got lucky with Ready Player One. The writing in this book is not nearly as good, and Wade is an out-of-control lunatic who spends his spare time cyberstalking his ex-girlfriend (which he freely admits to!) and destroying anybody and everybody in the OASIS who dares to say something bad about him, instead of actually doing something to make other peoples’ lives better (which, you know, Samantha, Aech, and Shoto have been doing this entire time). Wade’s become a nasty little hermit, living all alone in Halliday’s mansion and ignoring people in pursuit of living his entirely life via ONI-OASIS because it’s the only way he can feel things any more.

Can you tell I read this book purely out of spite so I could write an informed review on it? I mean, come on.

Two-Face was right. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Hm, I wonder why you’re the villain, Wade? Surely it can’t be because you’re actually acting like a real-life supervillain and lording it over everyone else in the OASIS, hm?

It’s pretty clear by chapter four that Cline is just repeating the exact formula that led him to success in his first book. Wade finally gets a clue to one of the Seven Shards, and it’s by a blogger he follows that he’s also developed a massive crush on (sounds familiar), who is calling her group of friends the “L0-Five” in a snarky callback to Wade’s group, the High-Fives. However, Wade makes it known that he won’t break federal law this time to figure out who L0hengrin is (even though he’s had no qualms about doing that to all the trolls in the past), because he “respects her too much” (at least until he overhears her talking with her friends and then he digs up the dirt on all of them!). And let’s not even get into the fact that the quest for the Seven Shards starts on the exact same planet that the Quest for the Egg started on. The similarities are too much.

And then thing slide from bad to worse when Wade finds out that the person he’s eavesdropping on was “designated male at birth (DMAB),” but it’s okay – he’s watched enough porn between so many different people of all sizes and genders that it’s okay! It’s got empathy and knows people are humans, too, just like him! (There was absolutely NO REASON to mention L0hengrin’s gender at all, seriously.)

There is nothing new in this book. This book was written solely to be a cash-grab because Cline knew that his legions of fans who loved the first book would instantly buy this. I will admit that I liked the first book, but it became such a rallying cry for incels that I try to distance myself from it now. (I kind of wish I’d re-read it before reading RP2, but we can’t go back now.) If you really want to see some dumpster fires, check out the reviews of this book for anyone who’s not a cis-het man on GoodReads. They get dumped on in the comments because “you just can’t stand when a white man is successful!” and other such gems like that. It’s nauseating. What’s even more nauseating is that people paid to read this drivel (I’m glad I at least borrowed it from the library, but I was on a hundred-person waitlist!). Nothing is new, Wade is an insufferable jerk, nobody grows and nobody learns, and the entire plot has been done to death already.

Stop reading now if you care about spoilers. Just know that I give this book 1/5 stars for many of the reasons mentioned above and then some.

Ready? Here we go, with the top three things why this book did not work.

1 – The entire time limit for the quest is twelve hours. If you remember, the first book took them almost a year to track down three keys/doors (if my memory works right – but I could have stretched that time frame a little). This book gives the heroes less than twelve hours to find six soul shards because of the ONI device – if you spend 12+ hours logged into it, you’ll basically die (and yes, multiple people mention Sword Art Online and other stories of that type – they absolutely could have seen this coming). That’s usually not a problem, because the ONI has a system override that will log people out once they hit their 12 hour limit – until the Big Bad tells the crew that he’s disabled that particular ability and also oops – once someone’s avatar dies they don’t respawn any more.

What’s worse is that throughout the entire quest, once they achieve one shard another person in the party reads the clue and immediately knows exactly where the next shard is and how to get it. They hop across multiple planets and endure what Cline spends dozens of pages describing just to have it have “actually happened” in just a few minutes, so there’s plenty of time for them to get the last shard and then defeat said Big Bad? Sorry, I’m not buying it. The time limit is interesting in the beginning, but there is literally no way this time limit would have worked and they would have all been dead multiple times over.

2 – Wade Watts is a misogynist and it is truly baffling how Samantha just glazes over everything that he’s done in the past few years and gets back together with him in the end, even though his decisions directly led to the entire world almost being trapped in the OASIS and dying via ONI-device? I made a BookTok about one particular passage, where Wade says that the only reason he has empathy for anyone after Sam left him is because he spent all his time watching porn on his ONI and experiencing it as different genders and now he knows that everyone is human just like him? (Tell me you’re reading a male author without telling me you’re reading a male author.)

Like, Wade does absolutely nothing that’s redeemable in this entire book. Just like with Armada, Cline has written in the manic-pixie dream girl that the main hero will get back together with in the end no matter how terrible he is, because that’s the only way to have a “true” ending – the hero gets the girl. Some of the things Wade does during the course of the book go beyond just “creepy boy next door” and enter into “psychopath” territory. This is the guy that every girl would stay away from because it’s so clear that he’s mentally unstable and even Cline tries to redeem Halliday in the end after he steals Kira’s memory and begs her to become “his” and eventually does realize that she’s her own person. That gives Wade a lightbulb moment too but at that point he’s already way too far gone for redemption.

3 – The ending. “Oh, it’s all actually okay because we can resurrect everyone and we can all go do our own things for the rest of our lives as cyber-ghosts out in space and everything is going to be okay! We also have like thousand and thousands of frozen human embryos so we can restart the human race if we find a hospitable planet!”

No! No no no no no! If there was any justice in the world, Wade would have pressed the Big Red Button and deleted the OASIS from existence. There are plenty of back-up files, and I’m sure they could have found one that didn’t have the Corruption in it. Or restart from scratch. I know the world has gone through a severe depression/economic crisis/probably nuclear apocalypse (I think?), but only Samantha has done anything with her billions of dollars to try and make the world a better place. Everyone else just thinks that if they ignore it, it will go away. The OASIS should have died. And the fact that people still assumed that the pros outweighed the cons and kept using the ONI? Absolutely not.

Do yourself a favor and skip this book. You’ll thank yourself for it. I told you in the beginning that I spite-read this book because I couldn’t believe how bad it was, and it did not get better on from there. I sacrificed my sanity so that you wouldn’t have to.

And as always, keep reading.

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