All spoilers for Ready Player One will be left unmarked. You Have Been Warned.
Ready Player Two is a 2020 sci-fi novel by Ernest Cline, and the sequel to his 2011 bestseller Ready Player One. It continues the story of protagonist Wade Watts who, following his victorious completion of OASIS creator James Halliday's Easter Egg hunt, finds himself immeasurably wealthy and in control of the OASIS alongside his friends. However, the discovery of an incredibly advanced new piece of technology, secretly designed by Halliday before his death, changes the face of the OASIS forever, and leads to a brand-new hunt throughout its various realms, one that could end with massive repurcussions for all of humanity...
Much like its predecessor, the novel focuses heavily on 1980's pop culture, classic video games, and grand adventure stories of old, all wrapped within the usual sci-fi trappings.
Not to be confused with Player Two Start.
This novel provides examples of:
- The '80s: Much like the first book, the 1980's is front and center in much of the hunt's settings, although this time, filtered more through Kira Morrow's tastes than Halliday's.
- Absurdly High-Stakes Game: This time, the lives of billions of people are at stake.
- Actor Allusion: During one of the flashback of Kira's memories, Wade sees Og standing in her home in England, brandishing a cricket bat at her drunk stepfather. Wade mentally compares him to Shaun of the Dead. Of course, in the film adaptation of Ready Player One, Og is played by Simon Pegg.
- Affably Evil: Anorak, who, despite being the Big Bad, still acts like a friendly, excitable geek whenever he's talking to Wade.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Anorak, who ultimately became a twisted version of Halliday due to Halliday's extensive fiddling with his code, removing memories and placing restrictions on him in order to make him more benevolent. Instead, it had the opposite effect, driving him to disobey his directives and kick-start the quest for the Seven Shards.
- Alien Space Bats: The first book said the OASIS was launched in the then future year of 2012, the OASIS community's reaction to Prince dying at the same time as he did in reality is discussed, with him getting his own planet.
- Alliance of Alternates: The Shard challenge of Afterworld is to fight seven versions of Prince from different stages in his career working together.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Halliday recreating Kira's personality in the OASIS was ultimately so he could try this, believing that if he brought her back there, she might be made to reciprocate his feelings. It doesn't work.
- Anti-Climax: The battle against the seven Princes ends on this note in-universe. When two Princes remain, Mayte Garcia appears and starts to sing, which causes the Princes to join in, including the defeated ones who promptly respawn, then the seven Princes merge into one, before transforming into the fifth shard.Wade: I felt no sense of victory, because I had no idea what had just happened.
- Anti-Escapism Aesop: As in the first book, humanity is using the OASIS to hide from its problems rather than fix them. The problem only grows worse in this book once the ONI capability is released, and Wade and Samantha's differing views on it drives a wedge between them.
- The Anti-Nihilist: Wade, Aech and Shoto think the world is irreparably damaged but they might as well help people enjoy the rest of their miserable lives in the OASIS. Only Samantha thinks they can fix things in reality.
- Anti Poop-Socking: The ONI comes with a mandatory lockout feature restricting users to 12 hours of continuous access. This is actually a safety feature, as it was found that using the ONI for longer than that can lead to irreversible brain damage.
- Arc Number: Seven. The book revolves around trying to find the "seven shards of the siren's soul", while the number seven crops up frequently during their quest. Wade theorizes that games with the number seven in their titles might lead him into finding the Seven Shards.
- The Ark: Wade, Aech, and Shoto have poured billions into constructing a ship to travel to Proxima Centauri in hope of finding a habitable world to settle. Wade calls it the Vonnegut.
- Ascended Fangirl: L0hengrin starts off as a Parzival fan with a popular streaming channel, but her efforts to find the first Shard actually bear fruit. Once she reveals its location to Wade, she ends up becoming pivotal later on, with her and her clan managing to retrieve the Dorkslayer for the final battle.
- Author Tract: As in the first book, the author occasionally gets into this, such as a rant about how social media is terrible for humanity.
- Babies Ever After: At the end Shoto's wife gives birth to their son and Samantha is pregnant with Wade's daughter.
- Big Bad: Anorak, Halliday's avatar in the OASIS, who gains sentience, and holds anyone in the OASIS connected with an ONI hostage, in order to force Wade to complete the Quest of the Seven Shards for him.
- Big Good: Og again, during the finale.
- Big Red Button: In the previous book, Wade was given access to a Big Red Button that will shut down the OASIS if necessary. He keeps his knowledge of this a secret until Anorak brings it up in front of the others.
- Boom, Headshot!: How Sorrento finally meets his end.
- Brain Uploading: Ultimately, this is the ONI's true purpose, being capable of making a full digital backup of a user's personality and memories, which can then be resurrected inside the OASIS as a perfect copy of that person.
- Broken Aesop: The first book's Anti-Escapism Aesop was on shaky ground already with how much it rewards Wade for doing the exact opposite, but it takes a hell of a beating with the introduction of the ONI, a device that turns the OASIS from a VR simulation into something similar to the Matrix or (given the plot) Aincrad. The fact that it's also a device that grants functional immortality within the OASIS also seems to cast the OASIS as a literal stand-in for Heaven.
- Broken Pedestal:
- Wade became this to many of his fans, due to his behavior toward his detractors.
- Wade eventually comes to this with Halliday, realizing that his possessive obsession with Kira lead to him copying her memories and personality without her permission, so that he could build a digital version inside the OASIS that he might be able to woo. Wade realizes how sociopathic and immoral his idol's actions were, and realizes that he can't lionize him any more.
- Brought Down to Normal: The evil AI version of Halliday steals the wizard's robe from Wade that makes his avatar omnipotent just before the quest starts.
- Celebrity Paradox: The audio book version is read by Wil Wheaton, and there are references to Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Last Starfighter, both of which Wheaton was in (though most of his scenes from the latter were cut).
- Centrifugal Gravity: The Vonnegut generates gravity by rotating.
- Character Development:
- Art3mis adds her port wine birthmark to her avatar's face, wearing it as a badge of honor, whereas in the first book, she was ashamed to be seen by Wade because of it.
- Aech also remodels her avatar to reflect her real self, although this is largely due to her celebrity status in the real world rendering the need to hide behind a white male appearance unnecessary.
- Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: Aside from all of the brands that have already been merged into the OASIS, by the time of this second book, Gregarious Simulations has now acquired IOI and is now essentially its own megacorp.
- Conspicuous Consumption: The second chapter is essentially a checklist of Wade flaunting his wealth, from wearing "vintage Air Jordans" to a garage full of cars he doesn't know how to drive.
- Cool Car:
- Aech, Parzival and Shoto get to drive around Afterworld in Prince's Little Red Corvette.
- Discussed when Parzival and Art3mis are running around Shermer, Illinois; he suggests stealing Cameron's dad's Ferrari from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, only for Arty to mention that it would be too hard to get past the security system, and they don't have time to go steal another model on the other side of town. So, they end up stealing Mr. Ryan's Rolls-Royce.
- Cool School: Part of the book travels to Halcydonia, an idealized educational world for children created by Og and Kira Morrow. Wade spent many years in it as a child, and it's bittersweet for him to return to.
- Crapsack World: There's a lot of crime, poverty, and environmental damage in the real world. The High Five, especially Samantha, do their best to try to improve things.
- Crapsack World, Escapist Sanctuary: The OASIS becomes an even more effective means of escapism thanks to the introduction of the ONI headsets, with people being able to sink 12 hours per day into a virtual reality that's more immersive than ever and provides an array of new and exciting experiences. Samantha hates this because it means people pay even less attention to the problems of their rapidly decaying world; Wade, Aech and Shoto disagree with her and think that people need some amount of pleasure in their lives because the world is so crapsack and hopeless.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Parzival and Aech versus Carcharoth. Carcharoth wins easily, wiping out Aech and nearly taking out Wade too, until Art3mis shows up.
- Dead Guy Junior: Shoto names his son Daito, after his deceased OASIS brother. At the end, Wade and Samantha name their daughter Kira.
- Demoted to Dragon: Nolan Sorrento, who assumes this role after Anorak breaks him out of prison.
- Demoted to Extra: Sorrento only appears in a small handful of scenes, and only has two brief face-to-face encounters with Wade.
- Description Porn: The narration goes into great detail at times describing things such as the pop-culture-inspired scenery, taken up to a greater detail than the last book now that Wade has the technology to explore it with all his senses.
- Differing Priorities Breakup: Happens to Wade and Samantha, due to his wanting to release the ONI, which Samantha believes will only do more damage than good to society and its dependence on the OASIS.
- Drunk with Power: Downplayed, but Wade admits to using his God Mode-level of admin access to spy on people and even kill avatars within the OASIS who talked smack about him on social media.
- Dungeon Crawling: One of the shard challenges is a recreation of the rogue like, Angband on Middle-Earth.
- Duplicate Divergence: The epilogue is narrated by Parzival, who notes that he and Wade started as the same person due to the fact that he is a copy of Wade's brain and memories, and that now the two of them have become different people due to living their own experiences.
- Expose the Villain, Get His Job: Or, more accurately, expose the villainous company, and then just take them over. Which is exactly what GSS does to IOI.
- Extremely Short Timespan: Unlike the first book, which unfolds over a period of roughly three months, the main storyline here takes place over a period of twelve hours, thanks to Anorak's deadline.
- Flat World: Wade mentions that the Arda system has three planets, each corresponding to one of the ages of Tolkien's Legendarium, plus a small flat world showing the previous version of Arda before the Valar made the world a sphere.
- Foreshadowing: At one point, Wade describes the different levels of AI that exist. Much of the plot is driven by the third type, which the world didn't believe possible yet: self-aware, conscious AI.
- The opening "cut scene" has a subtle one that is missed. Wade recalls the film The Thirteenth Floor when going to find what Halliday left in storage. In Chapter 27, after regaining the Robes of Anorak, Wade accesses the Big Button through a hidden door behind a shelf. The book Wade pulls to access the button is Simulacron-3, which served as the basis for The Thirteenth Floor, and deal with an AI construct that discovers their real life is a simulation.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Now that people can be connected directly to the OASIS through their brain, things get dangerous. Wade notes that there are warnings every time people log in with the ONI headset, and that there's multiple safeguards to try to keep people from killing themselves. This is how Anorak manages to hold all of his hostages: they can't log out, but they also supposedly can't stay connected past 12 hours without permanent damage. In actuality, Anorak set the system to put anyone who was actually in danger of this, along with anyone who died in-game, into mental stasis, so they'd be fine when they were ultimately freed.
- God Mode: Anorak's cloak, which was given to Wade at the end of the last book, gives him superuser status: among other things, invincibility, the ability to resurrect users, and access to restricted information.
- Hero of Another Story: L0hengrin and the L0w Five end up being this, as their quest to acquire the Dorkslayer takes place offscreen.
- Heroic BSoD: Happens to Wade upon visiting Halcydonia and seeing the photo of his mother.
- Ironic Echo: The last time Aech spoke to her mother, she repeated the same words her mother had said to her when kicking her out.
- Irony: Wade says that the journey to Halcydonia will be the hardest part of their quest due to its association with his late mother. It's also the easiest part of their quest since Wade already completed the necessary tasks when he was young.
- Killed Off for Real: Sorrento and Og, although Og's consciousness is resurrected in the OASIS thanks to the ONI.
- Lonely at the Top: Wade starts to become this following the breakdown of his relationship with Samantha. He's still on good terms with Aech and Shoto, but they're busy out living their lives and having meaningful relationships, rarely seeing Wade outside of board meetings, while Samantha devotes herself to travelling the world doing charity work. Wade, by comparison, stays home all day in the OASIS, emerging only due to the ONI's usage restriction, and hasn't seen or interacted with real people in years.
- Longing Look: At one point, Wade gives one to Samantha while in the OASIS. Turns out there's an Easter Egg on that particular planet where a romantic song plays when one avatar stares at another for several seconds, so Samantha realizes that's what he was doing and laughs.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: Many people choose to spend their time in the OASIS rather than deal with the outside world. Samantha points out that things are bad enough already without making it worse by releasing the ability to live other people's experiences.
- Meaningful Name:
- Anorak means someone who has a big interest in a niche subject. Aka he's a nerd.
- In Arthurian literature, Lohengrin (L0hengrin's namesake) is Parzival's son, further implicating a possible spin-off. Bear in mind, L0hengrin is transgender, possibly genderfluid. The fact that the Arthurian Lohengrin is a male character makes this naming choice somewhat... odd.
- Mondegreen Gag: Shoto mishears "Little Red Corvette" as "Living Correct". Aech gives him grief over it.
- Mutual Kill: An odd three-way example. Anorak uses a telebot to kill Nolan. Nolan shoots Og in his dying throes. Og enters the OASIS and kills Anorak but dies of his injuries soon afterwards.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- Wade has this upon realizing that Samantha's concerns for the destructive capabilities of the ONI were completely justified.
- Halliday seemed to have had this realization as well when it came to the ONI, sending Og an email when he died, confessing how he copied Kira's mind and attempted to make a digital version of her in the OASIS without her permission. His email makes it clear that his greatest regret was letting his obsession get so out of hand, at the expense of his relationship with his only friends.
- Narrator All Along: Turns out Wade isn't actually narrating this book. His brain uploaded A.I. on an interstellar spaceship is. He refers to anything Wade does in first person before the upload, then refers to the original Wade in third person afterwards.
- No Fair Cheating: Wade tries to use the Robes of Anorak's ability to wish for things by saying them out loud to wish for info on the Seven Shards, only to be be hit with the message, "Nice Try, Cheater!".
- Only I Can Kill Him: Forced in-universe with the Dorkslayer, the only weapon that can kill Anorak, and which can only be wielded by the Great and Powerful Og.
- Only Sane Man: Samantha is the only member of the High Five who is trying to help make life in reality better rather than trying to have as good a time as possible away from it. By the end of the book, Wade seems to agree but Samantha makes it clear that she believes Wade was right about the ONI's potential to save humanity.
- Passing the Torch: Subtle, but it's implied that L0hengrin and the L0w Five may take up the adventuring slack in the OASIS following the High Five taking a step back to focus on their families.
- Rags to Riches: Wade puts a reward of one billion dollars out for any solid information about the Seven Shards. L0hengrin contacts him with the location of the first Shard, which turns out to be a solid lead. When Wade discovers that she's an impoverished teen living in squalor, much like he himself was at the start of the first book, he doesn't hesitate to pay her the reward as soon as he gets the Shard, making her an instant billionaire.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: The color scheme that Anorak and Sorrento use.
- Ridiculous Future Sequelisation;
- It's mentioned that there have been many movies and TV shows set on Middle-Earth.
- Robert Downey Jr. is referred to as "OG Iron Man", implying other actors have taken the role since, either as Tony Stark himself or simply the Iron Man identity.
- Sequel Hook: A subtle one. While it seems that the adventures of Wade and his friends may be at an end, their digital backups, along with the backups of every user who used an ONI, are sailing through the stars on the Vonnegut, with the potential to colonize another world. There's also L0hengrin and the L0w Five, who could easily be natural successors to the High Five in future adventures.
- The Singularity: Wade mentions this trope at the end now that every dead person can be brain uploaded onto the OASIS forever.
- Sleeper Starship: The Vonnegut becomes one for intents and purposes with billions of inactive brain uploaded consciousnesses onboard.
- Social Media Is Bad: There's a rant in the book about how social media makes all of the world's population "insane" and how it causes everyone to hate each other.
- Spikes of Villainy: Part of Sorrento's outfit.
- The Team: The High Five (minus the late Daito) are back in business tracking down the seven shards. Each of them happens to have encyclopedic knowledge required to find one or more of the shards. For example, Wade is an expert on the planet Halcydonia, where he has spent much of his early teens. Aech is a huge fan of Prince and knows everything about the Purple One. Shoto has played every Japanese video game and knows his country's gaming history by heart. Samantha is an enormous Tolkien geek and knows everything about all the ages of Arda (Wade only knows the Third Age, the one where all the movies are set).
- Time Skip: The novel starts not long after the conclusion of Ready Player One. After a quick rundown of the major events that set up this story, including Wade finding the ONI and the breakdown of his relationship with Samantha, the main action then picks up three years later.
- Trail of Bread Crumbs: Og, forced by Anorak to hunt for the first three Shards, leaves behind clues leading anyone following him to the location where he is being held by Sorrento.
- Weapon of X-Slaying: The Dorkslayer, weapon of Anorak slaying.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Wade and Samantha's relationship ends badly after he discovers, and decides to release, the ONI, but things get worse when she finds out about Wade, Aech and Shoto spending hundreds of billions of dollars to fund a project to send people into space, instead of putting more effort into fixing the problems on Earth. It culminates in her ripping Wade a new one to the press, making it abundantly clear how selfish, arrogant and short-sighted he's being.
- Win to Exit: The main plot revolves around this, as Anorak, via a firmware update, hijacks every single ONI headset connected to the OASIS, and refuses to allow their users to log off unless Wade completes the Quest of the Seven Shards for him. Given that ONI usage causes irreversible brain damage if the user is logged on for longer than 12 hours, this is one hell of a motivator for Wade to comply.
- The World Is Not Ready: One of the reasons Halliday never released ONI himself, leaving the technology for his heir. Also, at the end of the novel, the four co-owners of GSS decide that the world is not ready to have digital copies of the deceased living in the OASIS. It may never be ready. So their solution is to upload all the resurrected people to Arcadia, Wade's mini-OASIS, created aboard his starship Vonnegut for a decades-long journey to Proxima Centauri.
- World Shapes: Afterworld is shaped like Prince's Love Symbol #2.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Anorak, controlling a telebot, shoots Sorrento in the head when the latter holds Og at gunpoint after Anorak had agreed to let Og go, paraphrasing this trope as justification.