If you’ve ever heard arguments from students as to why they should read an actual book, here is a recommendation for one that they might enjoy even as reluctant readers. This is my book review of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player Two.
Summary of the Plot
If you’re already familiar with Ready Player One, Ready Player Two is a sequel that takes place a few days after the end of the first book and the end of James Halliday’s Easter egg hunt. Once again we get to hang out with Parzival, Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto and get to see what happened to them since we left off in the previous novel.
If you’re a new reader then this is a quick rundown of the setting for the novel. The world isn’t in a good place and many use a huge online simulation game world, the OASIS, as a refuge from their regular existence. The OASIS was created by James D. Halliday and, after solving the contest he left behind in Ready Player One, the new owners try to make the OASIS and the world a better place for everyone in it.
The OASIS wasn’t the only thing Halliday left behind and early on in Ready Player Two Wade Watts, aka Parzival, finds another of Halliday’s inventions left behind. One that might change the way to explore the OASIS, and the world we know, but it doesn’t come without risks…
Reality didn’t feel any more real than the OASIS had just felt to me. My senses couldn’t discern between the two. Halliday was right. The ONI was going to change the world. (p. 15)
Without spoiling too much of the book: once more the High Five need to assemble and cooperate to solve a new quest: searching for the seven shards of the Siren’s soul, in order to save both themselves and mankind.
Set In Comparison to the First Novel?
Ready Player Two is set in 2046, a few days after the first novel ends. Some events are of course linked to the previous novel, but it’s a whole new adventure and the pace is almost as varied and high as in the first book.
As in Ready Player One, Ready Player Two is full of references to different parts of pop culture such as different books, movies, and video games. In my opinion, it shows that the characters have grown and matured into adults. This is reflected both in their actions and way of thinking. They are still the same people, but it’s been a few years since Halliday’s contest in the previous book, and their lives have continued to evolve.
How Does the Sequel Hold Up?
As far as sequels go, Ready Player Two does a good job. It’s related to the first book of course but holds an adventure of its own.
The characters have matured, and the events in the book involve and affect more people than in the previous novel. If the first novel was more focused on the gaming aspect, then this one is more focused on the people and relationships between them.
And when I picked it up, I set in motion a series of events that would drastically alter the fate of the human race. As one of the only eyewitnesses to these historic events, I feel obligated to give my own written account of what occurred. So that future generations – if there are any – will have all the facts at their disposal when they decide how to judge my actions. (p. 23)
There has been criticism for the book saying it’s very similar to the anime Sword Art Online, but judging from this article there is probably a good reason for this since the authors of both works seem to have exchanged ideas and discussed collaborating.
I’ve personally not watched Sword Art Online, but it should come as no surprise that some elements can exist in other literary works and genres.
Why Is It a Good Book for Students?
If you have students that don’t like to read, this might be a book for them. It might be a bit prejudiced to say that it’s a book most suitable for boys, it works for everyone who likes games, movies, music, and action.
The pace is fast, making it ideal for those who don’t like lengthy descriptions without action. It’s hard not to get caught up in the story and root for the characters in it. There are plenty of pop culture references – some might inspire you to check out literature, music, or movies that your students may not have heard of before.
Suggestions for How to Continue Working With the Book in Class
If you decide to work with the book in class, I suggest that you’ve read it and prepare some info on topics frequently referenced in the novel. A short introduction of the artist Prince and short information about Tolkien’s literary works could help students understand the content a bit better, at least for the latter part of the novel. Some words or terms used in this book are from the first novel, and sometimes they’re not explained so a short glossary might be useful.
I think the novel and the setting of it could be an excellent way to start discussions about contemporary society, climate, how technology changes the way we interact and so much more. Your students are sure to have thoughts and worries about the future, this could be a good spot to vent some of that in class.
The students might recognize some parts of the novel from other literary works or movies since some themes and thoughts have been brought up in sci-fi novels before. If you wish, you could use that and let your students compare the novel and another novel, short story, or movie within the same genre.
Ready Player Two was published in 2020, nine years after the first book. The first book has also been adapted to a motion picture, something that is mentioned by the author in his acknowledgments at the end of the book.
In an article from 2020, it seems that a movie adaptation for Ready Player Two is in progress. There could be several ways to work with the book in class, but it’s a good read for the most part and might work for students having a hard time enjoying a book. All in all, it’s a good start to spark interest in other literary or cultural works. Keep in mind this is a book review, and as such it is subjective.
Have you read Ready Player Two? What did you think of it?