This definitely felt like a sequel to ready player one, like Ernest Cline did not forget how to write that book over the years. I have to say this book is just as good as the first one with the added benefit of getting to expand on that universe and characters. Wade is even more annoying than he was in the last book. He's still selfish and self absorbed but now he also has altogether too much money and power. The quests and their settings are on point. This book really does a great job of exploring how media keeps its creators and moments in time alive in a really powerful way. I think the part that really distinguishes this book from Ready Player One in a good way is its dive into Kira Morrow’s life and her role in the OASIS. I found the bits about Halliday and the Morrows so much more interesting in this entry and these bits really elevated this series for me. Ernest Cline clearly isn’t just a student of pop culture but of computer history as well. The dynamics between this group of friends that change technology forever just rings so close to so many real world tech innovators. Cline isn’t a bad writer and the world he created is pretty cool but I think this series is definitely something more than just the sum of it’s parts.
Here ends my review and here begins my rant about the crummy politics of this book.
I wonder if Ernest Cline is a Republican (are Republican slam poets a thing?) and/or if all his newfound money has gone to his head. Unfortunately this book portrays an unchallenged toxic and naive worldview in it's main character that isn't challenged by anyone in the book. Wade Watts has become Jeff Bezos and of course no one in his life explains this to him. I hope that any young adults who read this book are able to see how flawed all of the right wing views presented in this book are. The only resistance to any of this stuff is from Samantha who the book ultimately decides was never really that right in the first place. The thing is, I get that this book series is wish fulfillment for individualists, but I think it could also stand to poke the reader occasionally and remind them that it's these selfish individualists who are making life miserable for the majority. Rather the book seems to treat the majority and their miserable circumstances as unfortunate natural outcomes of the human experience. This book wants us to think that no matter how much money the omnipotent oligarchs in this story throw at solving poverty it simply can’t be sorted out and Samantha’s idealism is noble and pure but ultimately futile. Global warming? Sorry, it’s an unstoppable force, please no one ask if all the rich people need to be able to buy a new fleet of robots and transporters every chapter. Cline even brings up the national debt twice in this book as though it’s a disaster, which is such a classic (and dumb) Republican talking point. Wade pays off the US national debt as though he’s saved us somehow. I guess that’s what going to free online videogame school gets you, thinking that it’s a bad thing when other countries have enough faith in us to buy our treasury bonds. Please Mr. Bezos! Save us from our healthy economy! One of the other things that Wade throws money at is law enforcement drones because crime has become such a problem in the increasingly impoverished USA. Ernest, buddy, you’re so close! Poverty is increasing and so is crime while GSS keeps raking in cash and absorbing its competition… the probem is… ummm….. uhh….. Eureka! There simply aren’t enough police!
I would like to be able to say that an egalitarian reading of this book is that it shows why such massive power can’t be concentrated in so few hands, because narcissistic, emotionally unstable, toxic idiots like Wade and Halliday aren’t equipped to wield their power responsibly and really is anyone? How can we ever be sure that some unfit person won’t become the heir to the throne? Unfortunately though to make that sort of reading of this book you have to ignore the outcomes.
[[SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT]]
So in the end only a few dozen people died from the event and technically none of them died from the ONI headsets, so GSS didn’t really do anything wrong, see? Most of those people died because the evil unwashed masses have criminals among them that preyed upon the people who were stuck in the OASIS, never mind who’s responsible for them being stuck in the OASIS in the first place. But what if they had died? What if Anorak had lied and really once he died the firmware was still on the headsets (which by the logic of the book would make sense since the firmware can’t be updated or rolled back until you’re logged off) so now billions of people die. Now do we reevaluate whether or not Wade Watts and his nerd crew should have ultimate control over all of our lives? Is the only thing that matters the actual outcome and not the potential outcome? Hooray the superstar Parzival heroically saved us all from his own incompetence! Halliday creates a system that can kill billions in a day and hands the reins over to the person who likes his favorite video games the most and now that system is set on auto-kill because his nerd heir is reckless with his power. And people are just cool with it? I guess Samantha was right, these people are dope pushers and nearly everyone on the planet is addicted. Hey everyone! The world is in crisis, poverty is rampant and the earth is rapidly warming. I guess we should let this kid that went to the free videogame school from his trailer park decide to spend $300 billion on an escape pod for him and his friends to live eternal lives far away from this oligarch forsaken rock. Eventually even the selfless and noble Samantha -hero to unwashed masses everywhere- agrees that it was a good thing that they spent the GDP of Pakistan on a spaceship because now her grandma gets to go to heaven.
This book doesn’t question right wing power structures at all, it believes (and apparently everyone in the world believes) that these power structures are ultimately good and the only thing that should change is that the people at the top of the power structure should be those with the best knowledge of all of Ernest Cline’s favorite media.
I think the main thesis of this book seems to be that the world is fucked anyway and the best thing we can do is not to use our resources to try to fix it, you can’t fix it. Our resources should be used to continually improve our escapist media so that we can better cope with the self destruction of our species. This is more important than democracy, privacy or equality. Never mind what motives drive the companies that bring us this escapist entertainment or the repercussions of that entertainment, just ensure that it continues to be more engaging and immersive and available at the expense of anything and everything else.
These ideas are a croc of defeatist, selfish, immoral shit and should be ignored or criticized as you enjoy this fun and exciting book. Thank you.