Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Somewhat of a step back for Cline, the book is a worthwhile sequel for superfans of the first novel, which become a cultural phenomenon.
The story is plagued by a critical tone-deafness, as well as a protagonist whose plight is tough to care about because all he is doing is solving a problem he created. By opening a Pandora's Box of A.I. brain tampering while mass-producing Oasis immersion rigs, the hero drives away the love of his life and puts his mentor and just about everyone he cares about in jeopardy.
Cline follows the same formula he established in the first book, but scales down video game references in favor of obsessions with John Hughes and Prince. This time around, the contest is open to him alone, and there is an arbitrary time deadline he's racing against.
With nothing much at stake, it's sometimes a slog to lumber through the saga, in which seven shards must be collected -- each of them connected by obtuse riddles.
As with the first book, Cline's prose is riddled with stiff dialogue and dull humor.
A strange twist ending left me unnerved, and I credit Cline for the bold choice. It may make some feel alienated.
Despite my disappointment with the book, I enjoyed the experience. Cline is a natural, brisk storyteller, and his geeky enthusiasm is infectious. I would read a "Ready Player Three" if it comes.
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