Sometimes the more you wait in anticipation for a movie sequel, or a follow-up novel, the more it fails to meet your soaring expectations. Then you get annoyed with yourself for being suckered into feeling that way.
I was really looking forward to Ready Player Two — why wouldn’t I be? Ready Player One was clever, playful and funny. I was eager to re-experience the highs of the first novel.
With a smash hit on his hands and what felt like a thoroughly complete and satisfying story, I was curious where Ernest Cline would take Ready Player Two. It seemed inevitable that the characters would have to lose everything they’d gained at the end of the first book and be dispatched on another quest. But, when we meet Wade Watts in Ready Player Two he’s the world famous owner of the Oasis, rich beyond belief, and arguably one of the most powerful people in the world. For me, this really messed up the whole tone of the novel. The highly likeable character of Ready Player One is suddenly hard to empathise with. There’s no struggle. In fact, I didn’t really like any of the main characters. This misstep, re-jigs everything else onto the wrong foot. Ernest Cline even jokes about this, saying that Wade is basically perceived by most of the players in the Oasis as a rich kid douchebag.
Where the pop culture references of Ready Player One were funny, and fitted seamlessly into the quest, in Ready Player Two they fall flat, like they’ve been shoehorned into the plot for the sake of making yet another pop-culture / nerd-culture reference. In a weird way, Ready Player Two feels almost like the author writing about his own success.
I can explain the story in about three sentences. And, if you push me, I can explain it in one sentence. Ready Player Two is clearly that second rock album that somehow didn’t quite work. It’s the novel that takes us to what will inevitably be Ready Player Three. It even feels like some of the storyline has been created to suit the actors who played the characters in the film.
Will Wheaton did an amazing job reading the audiobook of Ready Player One, but even he can’t save Ready Player Two. Is it awful? No, of course not. It’s a decently written book — it’s just that there are so many things about it that I found odd, slightly clunky, jarring, and in a few cases, downright irksome.