Warning! This post will spoil both books, so read them first.
I was a big fan of Ernest Cline’s first two books, Ready player one and Armada. I enjoyed the Ready player one film too although I am happy I read the book first. When I saw that the sequel was being released in November, I was excited to see where Cline would take the Oasis. Will Wheaton reads all three books on audible, and I enjoy what he adds to the text so I would recommend getting them on Audible.
Ready player two is a story about a general AI created from a brain scan of the creator of the Oasis, a virtual reality world that most of civilisation is addicted. The book introduces a possible post-human future where people can upload their consciousness to the simulated world and live on as a digital version of themselves after they die. Another idea introduced is that of people recording their experiences through brain scans. Others then can play them back, experiencing them from inside the other person’s body, with the feelings and emotions, providing empathy, something that might solve many of the current political and social arguments.
People not being ready for accepting digital versions of others is mentioned, especially as the first version of this goes mad and holds the whole virtual world hostage. Cline, however, does not talk much about the ethical implications. Are humans meant to live forever? What happens to a persons decision making when you can’t die? A statement is made towards the end of the book about a person’s mind and body are two separate things, but is this true, and are there implications of separating them?
Altered carbon has a similar premise, but as it is based in the physical world and explores the magnified inequalities that result from the costs of moving from body to body and the ethical and religious issues of living forever. The marginal cost of digitising the mind and living forever in a computer is much cheaper and so more accessible. This would avoid some of these issues, but income inequalities will be exacerbated, and a two-class system of AI avatars and blood sacks is sure to result. I hope this is the plotline for Ready player three.
This is a great book, especially if you were born in the 80s and get all the cultural references, I highly recommend you read both Ready player one and two. If you have read or watched Altered carbon before getting to the second book, it might make you think a little more about the ending.
Let me know on Twitter if you have read the second book and what you thought of it.