Ernist Cline’s sequel to Ready Player One picks up 10 days after the end of the first book. The first quarter of the book seems determined to make sure we hate Wade (the original protagonist), and that we feel the crushing hopelessness of the near future that he lives in. Despite their billions upon billions of dollars, the four co-owners of Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS) are unable to solve any of the real world issues facing Earth.
The economy of this future makes no sense to me. GSS is the largest company and employer in the world, and everyone else is dependent upon it, but where is other money coming from? And just how much money do the co-owners have? Wade spends 100s of billions of dollars on pet projects. The other three pour their billions into charities. And yet somehow there is still homelessness and hunger and everything else. Earth is approaching 10 billion people and has extreme population pressure, but only one person is looking to the stars (Wade’s original goal from Ready Player One if he won), though not any of the nearby planets.
Wade’s solution to all real-life’s problems is to dive deeper into the OASIS. And with his god-level avatar powers, he can be as petty and self-destructive as he wants. The book wastes no time making sure we know how current the author is by saying how flu like pandemics are a thing of the past thanks to no one ever having any social interaction anymore, because they are all jacked into the OASIS every waking second of their lives. And thanks to the inciting plot device, the OASIS is also the cure for all social issues, except for Aech’s constant reminder that the 1980s, while amazing, did not embrace much in the way of diversity.
Most of the author’s seemingly political agendas are forgotten as soon as we finally get into the next quest, aka the last three quarters of the book. The tone of the story completely flips over and now it is the comradery and nostalgic fun (both figuratively and literally) of the first book. All of the alienation, animosity, and bad blood that Wade spent three years cultivating to perfection instantly disappears.
Another thing that changed was how quickly everything can be solved. In his first book, between keys and gates were months and years of time with them attempting to solve the clues. But this time, after the first clue is solved, it is all resolved in a day. Sound familiar? That is because that is exactly what happened in the movie adaptation of Ready Player One, and the National Treasure movies. Perhaps Cline just figured if they make this one into a movie he might as well avoid the rewrites and just have everything wrap up nice and quick from the get go.
Despite these criticisms the book was okay. The first quarter was not good, but the rest of it was good enough to balance it into the positive. To sum up the theme of the book, no amount of money (even magically unending billions, enough to pay off the entire US national debt and STILL have money to build giant spaceships) will ever be enough to fix the world’s problems. The real solution is to give up on real life and embrace the digital escape of virtual reality. The only thing the OASIS can’t solve is that terrible thing called the human condition. Or can it?