A teen gamer plays for his life.
Miguel Anderson is dying. And so is Earth. In this dystopian future the planet is coming undone, and society distracts itself with virtual-reality games. Winning these games earns players rewards, and Miguel is saving up for a new heart to replace his own malfunctioning one. His favorite game is “Chimera.” When its maker announces a new game and seeks out beta testers, Miguel is chosen to work with a team to conquer the game’s 12 levels. Trevayne milks the VR scenes for all they’re worth, crafting elaborate action sequences and a dread-filled mood. Some of it works, but the trouble with setting most of a book in a computer is the constant reminder that none of the threats are real; the attempt to posit the idea that death in a game leads to real-life death doesn’t really get traction. The second half of the novel pivots into a conspiracy thriller when Miguel becomes aware he and his teammates are being manipulated by the godlike game makers, which ratchets up the tension nicely. The novel is overlong, losing its way in the middle, which is essentially just about a person playing a video game, but the final chapters and explosive finale even things out. Race is not mentioned, but naming conventions that mix ethnicities suggest a fairly blended society.
An overlong but reasonably effective dystopian thriller. (Science fiction. 14-17)