Digital nightmares lurk in this Sleep.
Now that the Internet is a completely immersive experience, gamers like Michael find themselves drawn to the real-life simulators that make daily living seem so much more real than outside the Sleep. But when a young woman disables the safety measures and kills herself in front of him, Michael is forced to help VirtNet Security hunt down Kaine, a dangerous gamer who is wreaking havoc in the digital world and is targeting the physical one as well. Michael heads off into the Sleep with two virtual friends and quickly finds that the safety he had previously found there no longer exists. Dashner’s matryoshka vision of digital worlds is oddly limited by realism—despite the impressive tech setups and the nod to the infinite creative possibilities of virtual reality, both Michael’s home life and real-world simulator lack presence. That absence carries over to Michael and his friends as well. They have few defining features or preferences, seemingly nothing but an immersion in a virtual world and some skills at coding. Secondary characters are much more defined through names, vivid descriptions, actual personality traits and more. While the pacing is mostly solid, Dashner goes overboard in the setup for the plot twist, revealing it too soon and making the last 50 pages a bit of a slog.
High on concept, this is an intriguing read for the digital generation. (Science fiction. 12 & up)