There is a moment in Ready Player Two where one of the primary antagonists mutters the phrase “Don’t you kids ever get tired of picking through the wreckage of a past generation’s nostalgia.” when addressing the heroes of the story. I’m still not sure if it’s an attempt at self-satire or a show of profound lack of self-awareness but it might as well be the tagline for this book.
Ready Player Two continues to follow Wade and the gang after the finale of Ready Player One. If you read Ready Player One, the format and style is nearly identical and that’s what amounts to my largest gripe with this book. There is a pretty good story tucked away here but it’s buried under a mountain of pop-culture references. More specifically, it’s a mountain of 80’s centric pop-culture references. There are entire passages that just amount to Cline explaining what happened in a movie, video game, novel, etc…It’s a pure nostalgia play.
Mild spoilers but there’s a section of this book where, in the midst of their quest, the crew ends up on a world in the Oasis that is built around the films of John Hughes. People like John Hughes, so sounds good! But if you’ve seen the John Hughes movies then what you get is entire pages of Cline just reciting scenes and plot points from those movies. It fills the pages with nostalgia but doesn’t push the story forward. This same thing happens time and time again.
I’m not opposed to surrounding one’s self with nostalgia and reliving favorite movies and games, but it can’t be more than half of the page space in your book and still provide a satisfying narrative. It’s a shame that Cline can’t find a way forward for this particular story that doesn’t involve regurgitating things he experienced in his childhood.
The underlying story is solid, and if you lived through the 80’s you’ll probably enjoy some of the nostalgia, but this book is nothing more than that: a vehicle through which Cline can sell books that allow him to revisit all of his favorite things. Give me 80% less pop-culture references and 80% more focus on the character development and we’ll be in business. Until then, I can’t wait to find out what dark corners of nerd culture Cline has left to plumb for profit!