I am a solid fan of Edwards’ writing, so was a bit shocked to discover that a couple of her novels were languishing in my To be Read pile – see my review of Scavenger Alliance. While I was ill, I took the opportunity to read them…
In the year 2519, people on Earth don’t grow old and die any longer, their bodies are frozen and they start a new life in the virtual reality of the Game. Jex is almost eighteen, working twelve hour shifts, and dreaming of when she’ll be legally adult and begin her long-planned idyllic life in Game. When a bomber attacks a Game server complex, one of the virtual worlds of Game crashes, and eleven thousand immortal players die during emergency defrost. Death has struck Game for the first time in centuries, and Jex is questioned as a suspect in the bombing.
I really enjoyed this one. Edwards has a knack for writing strong young characters with plenty of depth and suitable lack of experience, but who don’t come over as whiny and annoying. It’s harder to achieve than she makes it look, as once again I found myself completely beguiled by Jex, who has a grindingly hard life in common with all children who now grow up in a post-Gamer world. Once the unthinkable happens and a bomb explodes, the high-handed and clumsy law enforcers simply scoop up all the teenagers who were working near and around the frozen stacks of bodies and question them. Such an event on their records will immediately bar them from being accepted by any of the games, dooming her to living in the grey, twilight existence of the real world.
The depiction of the general neglect and bleak surroundings now pervading reality, while all the talented and able adults are away in virtual reality is well done. I found the worldbuilding very nicely handled, given the way Edwards braids into the unfolding investigation. For this is a thriller as Jex finds herself involved in the desperate hunt for the ruthless bomber who has killed thousands and is poised to strike again.
This thriller is a real page-turner, as there are all sorts of plot twists. I also very much liked the unfolding romance which works well. There is plenty of humour when we see the ideal lantern-jawed hero transformed into a geeky teenager who ran headlong into a game rather than cope with real-life relationships. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining YA science fiction offering, which comes highly recommended.