by Ursala Poznanski
Kids at school are huddled in corners whispering, and most of Nick’s friends are refusing to answer the phone. Nick suspects that something exciting is going down and he’s ticked off that he’s not invited—that is until a friend of his hands him a disk and invites him to experience the game of his life…so long as Nick remains sworn to secrecy. Once logged in, Nick discovers a gaming world unlike any for sale at the local game store. The game, Erebos, is uber-realistic, insightful to the point of mind-reading, and incredibly graphic and thrilling. Suddenly, Nick is one of those whispering in corners , avoiding responsibility, and falling asleep in class, all so he can spend just a few more minutes in the game. But is the game just for fun, or does it have more sinister ideas in mind?
Gamers will enjoy reading about Nick and his epic battles online, but what will really catch the reader’s attention is the way Nick and his friends are sucked into the game both online, and in the real world. Nick’s enthusiasm borders on obsession, and his obsession is contagious; the reader will want to return to the book as quickly as possible to see if Nick is still in the game. They too will wonder about the Erebos players’ real-world counterparts, and they will ponder the mystery of a game named after the God of Darkness. Yet, in a more subtle way, this book is about choices and consequences; eventually, all players are faced with decisions that could lead to the death or injury of someone in the real world. What will Nick choose, and will his choices make his character more or less likeable? While Nick is not the most likeable character, he is an appropriate choice for the protagonist in this story. Nick is not particularly moral—he thinks he is better than the geeky kids and feels especially good about himself when he abstains from bullying others. In fact, at one point in the story he is offended when his everyday common decency isn’t seen as a grand kindness by one of his classmates. He lies continuously to his parents, and doesn’t seem to feel at all bad about this. In short, he’s just an average kid, no better or worse than most kids. In the end, I was pleased that Nick chose the path he did, but I was really disappointed that a book so clearly concerned about the consequences of a person’s actions allowed Nick to escape this book with even one negative consequence. Overall, however, the plot was enticing, the action riveting, and the mystery nearly impossible to figure out before the conclusion. A fantastic read that fans of Epic by Conor Kostick and Brain Jack by Brian Faulkner will groove on.