Ready Player Two (2020) – Ernest Cline

Reading like a pop culture infused take on The Bride of Frankenstein, author Ernest Cline takes us back to the virtual realm of the OASIS in his follow-up to the bestselling novel, Ready Player One which delighted geeks planetwide with its quest story wrapped up in movie and culture references that shaped some of our lives.

The novel picks up a few years later and once again we join Wade Watts as his life is about to get rocked in a whole new way. He’s well off, has almost everything he ever wanted, and thanks to his ownership of GSS, has a whole new technology to let loose on the world.

This technology can record memories, let you reexperience them, and can even do a complete scan of the wearer’s brain and save it digitally. Arty/Samantha was less than thrilled by the debut of this tech called ONI, and it caused a huge blowup between her and Wade, leaving the character single, morose and lonely at the start of the novel.

And that’s when he discovers that Halliday’s, one of the creators of the OASIS, digital avatar has become corrupted and is demanding that Wade complete a quest, one for seven shards, that will restore Kira, Og’s (the other creator of the OASIS) wife, who he was also in love with.

To make sure Wade does it, he’s holding all the ONI users virtual hostage, they are unable to log out, and after twelve hours, they will lapse into a coma, and possibly die. Wade gets the band back together, and he, Aech, Shoto and Art3mis go looking for seven shards that will restore Kira’s digital avatar, and perhaps more?

The journey takes us across the OASIS, but there are three truly standout sequences, when Wade and company visit the Shermer Illinois planet, based on the films and writing of John Hughes (and has the most needle drops in the entire oasis – which constitutes a great playlist!), another dedicated to Prince (more great needle drops) and finally the First Age of Middle Earth! Can you imagine the NPCs (Non-Player-Characters) you’d encounter there? Cline sure did, and each one is tonally perfect!

Steeped in great dialogue that countless fans will recognise, Cline tells a rocking tale that swept me up completely, and made me laugh out loud more than once as I recognised myself on the page (especially when a character delivers one of my favourite lines from Ghostbusters – ‘Mother pus bucket!’).

The ending of the novel takes the characters in a wonderful new direction, and makes you wonder if perhaps there could be a Ready Player Three out there as humanity takes a step forward (?) into a whole new digital age.

Such a joyous read! Thank you sir, may I have another.

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