Now a multimillionaire, the lonely and reclusive Watts discovers that he has been bequeathed more than he bargained for: Halliday has left him the secret of the OASIS Neural Interface, which directs VR straight into the user’s brain. Watts releases it to the waiting world, and Cline charts the implications in a virtual picaresque that overstays its welcome by a hundred pages. Ready Player Two showcases characters the reader will come to care nothing about amid tedious info-dumping: diehard fans of Ready Player One might find this retread satisfying, but readers new to Cline will wonder what all the fuss is about.
This gives a welcome edge to a novel that otherwise largely follows the structure of the first volume, with Wade embarking on another riddling quest that involves him in such enjoyable set pieces as a mock-heroic battle with seven iterations of the singer Prince. One accepts the endless barrage of pop culture references (mostly American but Doctor Who gets the odd look-in) as an accurate reflection of the geek mindset and its emotional investment in films, comics, games etc. In general, though, this book lacks some of the zest of its predecessor, making it harder to ignore the fact that Cline’s workmanlike prose is often not quite up to the task of conveying the intensity of his impressive imaginative vision.