This book has been reviewed to death, and it doesn't help that it's spoiled popcorn for me -- I've seen the movie, and surprisingly, the movie and the book track pretty well.
It was a pretty quick read, one evening before bed, and I read it mostly to refresh my memory for the arrival of the sequel, Ready Player Two. I'm #1 of 49 holds on it at my local library, and it should be coming in soon!
There's a lot of world-building in the initial pages. Nine pages in, and we're intimately familiar with Halliday and the hunt for the egg, but still know absolutely nothing about the main character, at all, except his name is the first to go up on the leader board. Cline doesn't do the whole "start the story with the MC" thing that's so prevalent in traditionally published storytelling today. You don't get the main character's name until page 16(!), but in a way, that's ok, because with his avatar, Parzival, you realize names aren't that important (and his mistake of using his real name is an excellent plot device to drive the story later on) overall.
I can't help thinking it would never get published the way it's written, not today, and I'm a little scared for the sequel. Publishers prefer to have all that world-building sprinkled throughout the story, but it really is needed up front to set the context and dive into the world he's created. And, I can't help thinking, as readers get further and further away from 1984 (going on 40 years now, whew!), the explanations and references will be even more key for future reader comprehension.
There are a few discrepancies between the film and book, of course, and I'll leave it others to compare / contrast the mediums of presentation. ;-)
It's a fun read, probably for slightly older teens, 7/8th grades on up. There's a scene in a brothel (all virtual of course) and references to masturbation. As always, you know your students and their parents best, and you're the best judge of what's appropriate for your classroom shelf.
This was an excellent sequel, even better than the first, I felt!
Parzival / Wade has blown his "happily ever after" chance with Samantha / Art3mis by turning into a social media troll in the days after winning Halliday's challenge and taking over his company.
While Parzival governs the company along with the gunter board of Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto, he's primarily responsible for the release of the ONI, the Oasis Neural Interface. It's so awesome, so submersive, it makes them all billions, but only Samantha refuses to use it or promote it. Instead, she campaigns strongly against it.
At the same time as the ONI is released, a new leaderboard and the Shard Riddle appears, but there's really only one contestant: Halliday's heir. Wade/Parzival. Right? But Wade can't find even the first clue, the first egg, and ends up getting help from LOhengrin, a younger fan who's found the first shard, but can't touch it or pick it up.
As soon as Wade buys the clue from her, and he follows it to the first shard, things get moving. Og (Ogden Morrow, Halliday's surviving business and design partner) both disappears and his name appears on the leaderboard at the same time. And he quickly surpasses Wade in the quest for the shards, which focus on clues from the life of Halliday's crush and Og's wife, Kira.
And the gunters get locked in the ONI by a rogue Anorak and Sorrento, who is busted out of prison. Anorak tricks Wade out of his cloak of invisibility and is determined to get all seven shards and free the princess within, for reasons of his own. But Sorrento is ever-tricky, and takes Og hostage, forcing him to find the shards.
Question is, will any of them survive this new quest? Unable to physically disconnect from ONI, locked in their special immersion rooms with over-the-top security no one can breach, and a 12-hour over-stimulation time limit that will leave them lobotomized if they can't/don't disconnect, the pressure's on to solve the riddles, connect them to Kira's life, find the shards, find Sorrento and Og, and trick digital Anorak with something he actually wants -- life. Of a sort.
This was a fantastic sequel, still seeped in the 80s but moving forward with it's own world. Oh, and pay attention to the spaceship Parzival is building in the beginning. It's there for a reason.