I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend. I had never heard of it before, but was willing to give it a shot. It took me a little while to figure the book out. At the beginning, it felt a little like a YA book. The language was simple and straightforward, the characters all fell into standard tropes, and there was a lot of exposition. As the book went on, however, that started to change. The characters grew more complex, as did the ideas and themes. By the end of the book I felt it was more like a debut novel where the author noticeably improved over the course of the book.
The premise of the book is pretty simple, but intriguing. Basically, Earth is a immersive reality game designed to give youth an opportunity to gain life experience. It’s a bit like The Matrix, but without the war against machines. The main ‘real-world’ story takes place in the weeks leading up to the 30th anniversary of the game, while the ‘in-game’ story is set on present day earth. The ideas are a lot of fun, but the execution of those ideas was clunky. The game has become the focus of the entire world, and has been around for 30 years, but the amount of exposition in the book makes it seem like none of the characters are as familiar with the game as they should be. It makes it very obvious that the author is explaining things to the reader, which pulled me out of the book. This also led to the problem of excessive detail in some parts of the book, while other aspects of the story were just mentioned in passing.
Even though the book was a little uneven, it was really enjoyable. The characters were fun and each had very distinct personalities. The story was original and had some great unexpected twists. Very little of the book was predictable, but the characters were smart and reacted appropriately to their situations. I never felt like the author was really pushing for certain things to happen.
When I first picked up the book, I thought it was a four book series. After finishing book one, I looked up the others and found that it’s an eight book series. That may be a little too long, but I’m planning on reading book two soon, and I’m willing to give the series a try.