Ready Player Deuce by Ernie Cline

Ahhh what to say..

I am a huge fan of the first book. I loved the pop culture references, I loved the plot and I loved the way it felt like I was simultaneously travelling backwards and forwards in time. It allowed for wistful reminiscing and also the anticipation of world changing technological advances. In RP1 it was all about the possibilities. Now Wade and the audience has to deal with the actual consequences of these four kids getting absolutely everything they ever wanted in terms of fame, money and resources and, whilst it’s probably spot on, it is not entertaining or fun.

RP2 picks up shortly after the events of the first book. Wade is given a new piece of technology, an immersion helmet that allows people to plug into Oasis like never before granting them complete access to the brain’s responses. It lets people record the events they experience in real life like surfing a big wave, having sex or jumping out of a plane and then sell them to other users to relive. It turns the act of drinking a health potion from lifting one’s arm towards one’s mouth to actually feeling a liquid slide down your throat. It’s basically mainlining the Oasis and when made almost freely available, it turns the world into even bigger drug addicts, drives Samantha away from Wade and means this is not a fun adventure book but an overbearing one about regret, mistakes and consequences.

One of the reasons this didn’t work is that it reads like a poorly written apology to the people who pointed out the many reasons why Wade is not a great character. Clines spends the first 150 pages telling us all the ways Wade has changed and grown as a character, how many idiotic choices he made in the first book and how he is more worldly and wise now and should get a second chance. Sadly his efforts to seem more inclusive and aware clash with his use of the word ‘boobies’ and his assertion that he has tried all the sex ‘straight, gay and non-binary’ show just how ill prepared he is for the world outside his own circle.

The plot is another Easter Egg Hunt and he is facing off against the advanced A.I. left behind behind by James Halliday who has decided he wants to stick around. More Cline apologies follow with the revelation that Halliday was actually an obsessive stalker, deeply troubled and actually more Hannibal Lector than Walt Disney. He doesn’t eat people but he will steal your brain.

Ready Player Two is the sequel we didn’t need. At times it feels like an attempt to simply cash in on the hype created by the original movie. At other times, like when Wade and his friends battle six versions of Prince and it goes from being an impossible task to a ‘I don’t know how we won’ moment in the space of a paragraph, it seems like Cline had some fun ideas that were just poorly executed. I cannot see how anyone who was a fan of RP1 could resist picking this book up which is a shame as it really does sour part of the whole experience.


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