Book Review

Book Spotlight: Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Synopsis in under 100: This is the sequel to Ready Player One, settling on a few years later, during which the team is faced with a new next-level challenge. This novel reads the same as most AI dystopian novels, just with more 80’s pop cultural references. In the wake of Black Mirror, it also presents us with a similar moral conundrum first offered to us by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. That is: what is the human soul? Can it be preserved? Can technology offer us immortality? And if it can, what are the moral implications if we use it?

Review: First off, the book is about 370 pages long, and the first 120 pages more or less rehash Ready Player One. Although I loved the first novel and honest to god counted down the days for this one’s release date, it took me a good while to get into the sequel. Through my struggles, I had to remind myself of the target audience: YA, sci-fi. I can’t get mad at Cline for doing the right thing and gently “reminding” his readers about the first book that was published nine years prior.

Or can I? I honestly caught myself sighing, rolling my eyes, and skipping whole pages that retold the previous story. I didn’t need the reminders, so I decided to read at my own pace. It definitely helped me stay focus.

Wade is 21 in this book, but I, as the reader, couldn’t allow him the space to become an adult. It’s a shame really; it’s definitely my erring and not Cline’s. Hearing Wade talk about his sexuality, even as a gung-ho sexuality accepting person like myself, was super awkward. I was only hurting myself and the story overall that I couldn’t allow him to age. Even in the monologues about him missing Samantha, how in love he still was, etc. all that made me roll my eyes. It didn’t help that a lot of it was covered in the first 120 pages, so I was pretty much huffing and puffing half the time I was reading the first bit.

The quests are a bit long, as they do take some time to set up, but over all they’re great. I’m not a Prince fan, so that part did drag a little for me, but I know there are absolutely millions of people out there who’re gonna eat that part up.

Another review asks a really great question before the book was set to release:

I’m not sure the title Ready Player Two reflects what the sequel will be like. The term ready player two usually means the guy competing with whoever is ready player one.”

-Dysfunctional Literacy

I’m not sure if, even after having read both novels, there is a clear “player one” or “player two.” And in this instance, one needs a book club to discuss. Because truly, if the novel is to be read as a versus campaign, who is player one? Anorak, as in the OASIS itself? That makes sense. Or should it be read as a co-op and player two is the physical that enters in with the conscious? that’s maybe a stretch. Alright, my one-woman book club has decided it’s the first one I said.

Overall, the Big Bad is brilliant. I literally gasped out loud, to myself, in my quiet ass living room to such a degree that my scaredy-cat cat left my lap and the room entirely. The Big Bad is tits and definitely worth the read. Just as soon as you get settled into thinking, “Yeah, this is absolutely terrible! How ever will the High Five get outta this one!?” The plot twists, and you think, “No, wait, I didn’t mean it! Go back! We can find a solution for the other, less-terrible thing instead.”

Near the end, you’re left with the agonizing moral and philosophical conundrum of the human soul, consciousness, the afterlife, and our relationship to technology. It’s a very old conversation, but one I have yet to come to a final standing on, so it’s still interesting to me whenever it gets presented anew.

The novel does not directly debate or suggest any of its own speculations for the afterlife other than “alive” or “dead.” It posits the binary and nothing more. Complicating the question is the ability to use technology to break the binary, save and encrypt human consciousness, and plug it into a digital realm. Now, we’re not building physical beings like Dr. Frankenstein, but there is a similar premise: life/consciousness into the lifeless/unconscious.

There is absolutely no debate about an afterlife or spirituality or “the soul,” and I think Cline does well to stay away from it completely. It would’ve detracted from his story, so let it be a thought exercise for the fans afterwards. What we’re left with, though, is looking down the barrel of eternity. It is absolutely glorified by the end of the novel, but of course it would be to users of the OASIS. If the opportunity was to be immortal in the ramshackled world on the brink of overpopulation and resource depletion like the Columbus, Ohio of Cline’s “real world,” I highly doubt anyone would even consider immortality.

For me, I’ve settled on no immortality, thank you. But it’s still a very fun thought exercise.

In that spirit, I related most to Art3mis’s character – one has to know when to turn the tech off and when things are better to do in person. Later we find that it’s her ability to recognize the necessary limitations of technology that keep her grounded and indeed safer, more relatable, and more human than any other character within the novel. Shoto is a close second, but we don’t get to see much of him.

Lastly, and I’ll wrap this up: Anorak is Karona backward and that just fuckin cracks me up.

Got my “book in a series” square

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