In Shomron’s sci-fi debut set in a virtual world known as the NET, a 15-year-old boy must combat users’ connections being sabotaged as well as a possible alien invasion.
Troy Bentley, a well-known puzzle champ, is one of many surfers of the NET. Unfortunately, so is his supercomputer, Flint, who develops an anti-virus program that’s more effective than Babel, the unit designed to protect the NET. Flint’s program is an anomaly, since it doesn’t seem to derive its energy from the NET, prompting Babel to open an investigation. Babel is also looking into a surfer who, after his connection was prematurely severed, had his memory wiped completely rather than forgetting only his last surf. Meanwhile, Flint and Troy check out a time fold—a gap that’s not part of the NET—that Flint’s discovered; there, they find what might be an abandoned civilization. But when they try to close the opening they’ve created, they figure out that something, perhaps aliens, might have passed through. Shomron has constructed a world that’s deliciously complex but described in such a compact, coherent manner that readers might not realize how much info he’s packed in. He clearly distinguishes the NET by referring to the real world as “Earth” and noting the time discrepancy—every Earth hour is a full NET day. The endlessly fascinating virtual world was allowed to develop on its own for millions of NET years; now, it’s much like an alien planet, with its only city, Netville, surrounded by regions of dense jungles and strange creatures, such as a tree that attacks prey with its branches. The exhilarating, elaborate plot includes an attempted murder, a secret conspirator and a rogue group, Pira-net, working against NET authorities. Troy’s friend Maggie and his younger brother, Adam, are worthy companions, but Flint steals the show with his hysterical antics: He takes on different forms, like a dragon or, most adorably, a bear in a green suit, and he isn’t above pretending to be Troy in the NET so that, for example, he can win a contest in which a computer upgrade is the prize. Parts of the story are oversimplified but charmingly so, in particular the instantly recognizable components of the NET, like the NET police or a cup of hot choco-net.
A winsome cyberpunk adventure.