I read at least 52 books every year, despite my time commitment. It’s a habit I developed when I took the fifty-two-book challenge one year, which simply says you have to read at least one book a week. I’d never kept count before, but I’ve found that it keeps me a little more with my favorite hobby. I can say that I fulfilled it then. Actually, I’ve fulfilled it every year since then, though I’m usually so busy with other things that I start it sometime in May.
This year, however, I decided to start it early because the long-awaited translation of “Ready Player Two” finally came out.
It is a sequel to the work written by Ernest Cline “Ready Player One”. For those who don’t know what I’m actually talking about, Ready Player One is an iconic book written by a great geek for other geeks. It’s full of references mostly (but not exclusively) to 80s culture. Ready Player One is one of my favorite books, I don’t know if it’s because I can relate well to the main character in my own way, because I love her references, or simply because I love cliché love stories.
Anyway, I’ve been going to see Ready Player Two for a long time. But I have this stupid habit, which I only break on rare occasions, that if I read something in one language I also read the sequels in the same language. So my library is full of Slovak, Czech and English editions of books, but the series are always in the same language – the only exception is the series “Hraničiarov Učeň”, which I started in Slovak and finished in Czech, because the translation into Slovak was on hold at the time.
But we’re not here to tell you about my library, which has been in woefully long need of new shelves. We’re here to tell you our impressions of Ready Player Two. I’ll try to do that with as few spoilers as possible. But before that, I have to ask WHY? IKAR, how can you release a single edition of a book in a different design than the first volume? Is the paperback repackaging that expensive?
Before we get started I’ll at least give you a quick reminder of the basic elements of Ready Player One. The world is a dystopian place, and people using viral reality technology live and exist in a game simulation. Almost all commerce has been moved into it, and real life functions only to keep your life boxes running until you can log back in. After the creator of this technology dies, a contest is held to find an heir to his entire estate from his last will. The first one to find the three hidden eggs will gain control of it all, plus his, almost infinite, wealth.
The story of the second book begins just a short while after the first one ends. First the author introduces us to a new story and it goes very well, much to my surprise. As far as I know, a sequel was never planned and the bridging that came in the second book is decently contrived, I didn’t feel it was forced at all.
What I did feel bad about were the new story elements. Bad is actually the wrong word. They were just too cliched for me personally. A new system of using simulation is introduced into the story, it’s no longer virtual reality, it’s bringing consciousness directly into the game. Anyone who has seen enough stories with this theme knows where this story is going. And no, Ernest Cline is not a super genius who elevates this cliché to something new.
But ultimately I don’t blame him. I have the “Trapped in Simulation” story written out as well.
After things go wrong and our main characters are trapped in a game simulation by a new bad guy, they are sent on a new mission. Find the seven shards, similar to how they searched for the three eggs in the unit.
As it turns out in the end, the main negative character is much better written than it first appears. At first, I got the feeling that it was just copying classic elements of sci fi stories and the book would end up just being a sort of money farm. I can’t say that’s partly untrue, it’s certainly not the best written villain in the history of cliché, but as it turns out in the end, it wasn’t quite as much of a fiasco as it could have been.
The rest of the characters aren’t much different than they were in the previous volume. Parsifal is still the same and has learned very little from the past. Art3mis creates a few new conflicts, mostly to keep the book from being too short, and Aech, along with Shot, form a pair of sidekicks and only show up in the story because it wouldn’t make sense for Parsifal to save the world without them. I’m a little disappointed that the new characters weren’t used almost at all
Overall, the book reads very well, but I have to say that seven splinters was too many for my taste. Maybe it was the theme of the fifth quest, I’m not sure, but around there I got incredibly bored and had to force myself to read on. I feel that number seven was chosen mainly to cram as many references into the book as possible, then again even with the eggs there were six tasks so I guess that decision makes sense.
Overall, I liked the immersion into the mythos of this world and also that we got to learn more about the past and the side characters.
The conclusion was… satisfying. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this totally wasn’t it. If nothing else, I’m glad Ernest Cline didn’t completely choose all the clichéd elements of this type of story, although, as I’m wont to say, if you’ve read or seen enough of them, you know what happens later the moment some elements first appear in the text.
In other words, if you liked “Ready Player One”, don’t be afraid to reach for “Ready Player Two”. If you don’t expect another cult work but just a relaxing book that will bring back the nostalgia of the first volume, you won’t have a problem. But if you’re expecting the book to engross you as much as the first volume, you’ll probably be disappointed.
For me, this book was a decent above average unplanned sequel.