How do you avoid being formulaic when writing a sequel to a creative and highly successful popular novel?
The answer, apparently, is that you don’t avoid it; you give in to it.
Now don’t get me wrong! Ready Player Two, which of course is the sequel to Ready Player One, is very entertaining and will surely be turned into another successful movie. (The movie is “in development.”) But it certainly isn’t original. Except for the bland ending it offers exactly what one would expect. Part of the problem is that it falls into the obvious trap for quest movies (OK, OK, it’s a novel for the moment, but it was clearly written with cinematic expectations): if your quest is to collect seven shards, then the author is likely to go through a sequence of hunt, run into obstacles, overcome those obstacles, capture a shard, lather, rinse, repeat—seven times.
So, is it worth reading? On the whole, I say yes, especially since the pandemic isn’t yet over. It’s escapism in the best sense. Almost the entire story takes place in the fictional VR world of the Oasis, created with a veneer of AI and science, so it’s not a traditional fantasy. It’s obviously popular—58% of the Amazon ratings are 5’s—but it’s also controversial, for reasons that to my mind are just ridiculous. It has been attacked from the right for being “woke” (horrors! not all characters are cis, het, and white!) and from the left for portraying LGBTQ characters “incorrectly.” Give it up, readers! This is just pure entertainment, not politics! Immerse yourselves in a well-described fictional world, fasten your seatbelts, and go along for the ride.