Ernest Cline's long-awaited sequel to Ready Player One is out this week! My copy of Ready Player Two just arrived and I can't wait to dive back into the Oasis. Above Ernie's Spotify "soundtrack" for the book. And below, here's a bit from an interview with Ernie in Entertainment Weekly:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So when did you first start thinking of ideas for the sequel?
ERNEST CLINE: I tried to set up the possibility of a sequel when I wrote the first novel. As I was finishing the first book, and I knew the first book was going to be published, ideas started to formulate in the back of my head. I don't think I really started writing until they started production on the movie, which got me back into living in the world of Ready Player One. That's when I started to really write the sequel. Also, I knew then there was like a ticking clock because if the movie does well, then they're going to want to make a movie sequel. And if there's no book to base the sequel on, then that won't stop them. So that motivated me and it was great because as we were finishing the movie, Steven started to ask me questions about what the sequel might be about so he could get that into the ending of the first movie. It was also great because I was in [the book's shantytown village] the Stacks — on the set of the movie — in this recreation of things from my imagination. So it was hard to think about anything else once I was there. I had to then stop and do [promotion for the film] and now I've been working on it nonstop for the last two years.
While there are obviously many reasons to do a sequel, did you have any trepidation after you managed to have a first-time writer's dream experience with the first book, which was such a home run in every way? Were you concerned about doubling down?
It did give me a huge amount of anxiousness going into writing it. I know from my own experience — like with the Star Wars prequels — that expectations are often resentments waiting to happen. The higher your expectations, the more you're setting yourself up for disappointment. The great thing about my first novel was that nobody knew who I was and people could discover it. Once it became more popular I would see people who heard it was so great from their friends, then they would go into it with expectations. So I knew everybody would even be going into this story with expectations, including me and including Steven Spielberg. He would call occasionally and ask if it was done. Nothing will light a fire under you like getting one of those phone calls, and I knew fans were waiting too. At the same time, I wasn't going to let anyone rush me. It's a strange sort of storytelling. I worked on Ready Player One for almost a decade. I was still working full-time jobs during that time, but I would work on and off and sometimes set it aside for as much as a year, but I'd always come back to it. I believed in the story and I knew I had to finish it. The way that I would do the puzzles is very elaborate. Each of the puzzles is its own elaborate puzzle box and weaving all the riddles and puzzles and the '80s references into the story takes a lot of thinking and like trial and error. So it's different than other writing projects. I really wanted it to be as good as I could make it and as fulfilling as the first book. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy it. I know some people's expectations might not be met and I'm braced for that too.