Ready Player Two Summary
Ready Player Two is a 2020 speculative fiction novel and the sequel to Ready Player One.
- Wade “Parzival” Watts and his fellow co-owners of the OASIS, a worldwide virtual simulation, discover a technology called the ONI that makes the OASIS even more immersive.
- Anorak, the rogue avatar of OASIS co-creator James Halliday, forces ONI users into a quest to find the “seven shards” that will revive the avatar of his unrequited love, Kira “Leucosia” Morrow.
- Wade and his friends complete the quest, defeating Anorak, awakening Kira’s avatar, and reuniting her with the avatar of her husband, Og.
Last Updated on February 2, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1273
Ready Player Two is a speculative fiction novel set in a dystopian near-future version of the United States.
It takes place immediately following the events of Ready Player One, in which billionaire software developer James Halliday hosts a 1980s-themed contest to determine his heirs. The winners become the new owners of the OASIS—his interactive global simulation in which much of the world's activity now takes place—as well as his vast fortune. He models it after the search for hidden features called "easter eggs" in video games, and his egg hunters become known as "gunters."
Ready Player Two opens immediately following the conclusion of the contest, which four OASIS users have won after banding together to defeat a corporate group of militarized gunters: Wade "Parzival" Watts, Samantha "Art3mis" Cook, Aech, and Shoto. Shortly after they take over the company, they discover a hidden technology called the ONI—the OASIS Neural Interface.
The new technology allows users to experience the digital world as tangibly as the real one, and it instantly becomes a success. Soon, much of the world is spending twelve hours a day—the maximum safe limit—in an ONI headset living vicariously through their user avatars. Many people are exclusively conducting their lives, business, and relationships inside the OASIS, and their avatars become significant parts personas. As the primary heir, Wade inherits administrative power that allows his avatar godlike access to the entire simulation.
When the number of ONI users reaches a critical mass, something unexpected happens: a second contest is announced on the dormant scoreboard where the first contest's progress was documented. A riddle challenges Halliday's heir to seek the "seven shards of the siren's soul," and Wade—along with many other former gunters—begin an arduous search.
Three years in, Wade finally finds the first of the seven shards. The day his find appears on the public scoreboard, the breaking news is eclipsed by two other major stories: Halliday's OASIS co-creator, Ogden "Og" Morrow, has gone missing, and Nolan Sorrento, the convicted murderer who led the militarized corporate gunter army during the first quest, has mysteriously escaped from death row.
The four co-owners are called to an emergency meeting, and they arrive to find that Anorak—the OASIS avatar belonging to the late James Halliday himself—has somehow gained independent sentience and gone rogue inside the simulation. He retracts Wade's administrative powers and pushes a corrupted firmware update onto each ONI headset, locking billions of OASIS users in place and effectively holding them hostage. He's the one who took Og, they realize, in an attempt to force him to complete the quest, and he freed Sorrento to help. Og—and the billions of users now stuck inside the simulation—will be released when they find the shards, Anorak promises.
They soon realize the "siren" in question is Kira Morrow (née Underwood), Og's late wife and the lifelong object of Halliday's unrequited affections. As they learn more about Kira, they begin finding the shards in areas of the OASIS that she helped create. They revisit areas that are significant to each of them—the planet Halcydonia, a free education-themed planet where Wade spent most of his impoverished childhood; the game Ninja Princess, a favorite of Shoto's grandfather's; a Prince-themed planet called The Afterworld, which reminds Aech of her absentee father; and John Hughes– and J. R. R. Tolkein–themed planets where Art3mis feels at home. As they collect the shards, each transports Wade into a first-person memory from Kira's perspective, and he begins to see things through her eyes.
When they figure out where Og is being held captive, they begin to plan his rescue. Art3mis, the only one of them who has refused to use the ONI headset to access the OASIS, is able to log out of the simulation and search for him. While she works on the rescue in the real world, Wade takes the first six shards to the in-game shrine of Kira's avatar, Leucosia, and lays them at her feet. The seventh shard appears in the statue's hand, and he quickly places them all back in his avatar's inventory.
Anorak appears to claim the shards, and Wade offers them to him. When he accepts, Anorak realizes that he's been tricked—Wade has created a new artifact that visually resembles the shards but actually allows the giver to swap an item out of the receiver's inventory at will. He takes the Robes of Anorak—the artifact that confers administrative OASIS powers upon its wearer—and teleports away before Anorak can react.
Materializing in a restricted room that only the robe-wearer can access, Wade opens a secret panel that contains the self-destruct button for the entire OASIS. A levitating Anorak appears outside his window, pleading with Wade to see things from his perspective. He only wants to be loved, he argues. The shards will allow him to resurrect Leucosia, a copy of Kira's consciousness. Maybe, he contends, she could love him in this world, even if she never did in the real one. Besides, Anorak reminds Wade, if he presses the button, everybody logged into an ONI headset will die.
Back in the real world, Art3mis and a robot army arrive to rescue Og. They storm the mansion where he's being held and find that Sorrento cares only about taking vengeance for his arrest and has now gone rogue. Anorak has asked him to stand down, but he's no longer listening. Taking control of a robot of his own, Anorak shoots Sorrento in the forehead. Sorrento's gun fires as he falls, and the stray bullet hits Og in the stomach.
Wade and Anorak resume their argument inside the OASIS but are soon interrupted by Og's avatar—an ONI headset allows him to move around the OASIS as usual, even if his physical body is critically wounded and immobile. He and Anorak fight, and Og slays Anorak by slicing his avatar in half. The users are released and the threat is neutralized, but the system initiates a forced medical logout before Og can celebrate. His physical body is too weak, and he dies.
Realizing that they still haven't combined the shards, Wade and Art3mis return to the in-game shrine. When they put all seven shards together, Leucosia appears before them and thanks them warmly for resurrecting her. Anorak was Halliday's first attempt at digitally copying a consciousness to create artificial intelligence, she explains. In an attempt to improve his personality, he meddled with the file too much and corrupted it. She represents his second try and his first success: the very first stable artificial intelligence.
Leucosia gives Wade an artifact that allows him to create new artificially intelligent beings from ONI files, revealing that each ONI file is actually a full brain scan that backs up a user's consciousness. To test it, he resurrects Og from the scan immediately preceding his death, and he and Kira are reunited. Then he resurrects Art3mis's late grandmother, Evelyn, and they, too, are overjoyed.
Worried about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence coexisting with human society, the group decides to relocate the copied consciousnesses to a standalone version of the OASIS, called ARC@DIA, aboard a spaceship called the Vonnegut. Wade appoints his own copy as their captain, who sets out with a copied artificially intelligent crew of all his loved ones: Art3mis, to whom his human counterpart is eventually married; Evelyn; Shoto and his wife, Kiki; Aech and her wife, Endira; Og; and Kira. They upload a backup of ONI user files for safekeeping, and the spaceship sets course for Proxima Centauri.
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