Amy Caudill‘s review
This novel depicts the surviving members of High Five, the group that won Halliday’s “Easter Egg” contest in Ready Player One. The now four former players settle into co-ownership of the Oasis Company, the largest virtual reality service on the planet. However, all is not peaceful for long following their life-changing win.
A moral dilemma soon causes a split in the group, concerning a new type of immersion device that plugs subscribers into the virtual reality world through a direct connection to their brains. Halliday invented this device, but debated on whether to actually ever release it to the public. Samantha (Artemis) is against it but the others including Wade (Parzival) are all for it, despite Arty’s warnings of dire possible consequences.
The group is brought back together for a board meeting that becomes a nightmare as an autonomous Halliday clone NPC slips into the meeting, stealing the Robe of Anorak from Wade and gaining its invincible, omniscient abilities. The Halliday clone takes on the persona of Anorak, Halliday’s old online persona, and takes all of the users of the new immersion device hostage.
The only way Anorak will release the millions of subscribers from brain death by overexposure to the Oasis is if the group agrees to another quest, one that will revive a NPC version of Kira Morrow, one of the other creators of the Oasis and Halliday’s unrequited love. With the fate of the world’s population hanging in the balance; Parzival, Artemis, Shoto, and Aech will have to don their gamer personas and come together again.
While this sequel was similar to the original book in many ways, as in it included a majority of its action inside the virtual world; it comprised completely different quests and virtual “planets” for the reader to explore. It also focused much more heavily on consequences of actions and moral ethics than its predecessor, which makes sense since the players are now several years older with a larger array of life experiences under their collective belts.
For instance, Shoto is now a father and Aech is getting married, Wade and Samantha had a short romance followed by a horrible breakup, and the group has spent several years trying to use their vast winnings to benefit the troubled planet and population at large. With their collective maturity and a group of helpers that call themselves the “Low Five,” the team is as prepared as they’re going to be to deal with the new situation.
I enjoyed this book nearly as much as the first. While it started slow, with Wade turning into a virtual emo over his breakup with Samantha and overusing the Oasis instead of dealing with his problems, the author was able to pick up the pace a quarter of the way in, and develop an action-based plot that seemed almost a natural consequence of the conclusion of the last novel. The questions of morality, the future of the human race, and the legitimacy of “virtual” beings also added to the depth of what otherwise was a simple video game action movie.
I give this novel five stars, and recommend it to fans of the original story, as well as to sci-fi fans and role playing fans in general.