A delinquent teen searches a virtual world for his best friend.
Simon and Kat have been best friends since they were preteens, but following a series of peculiar events the two white teens have not spoken for several months. After a disastrous accident leaves Kat unresponsive in a hospital bed, the famous Company behind virtual-reality tech such as the Otherworld offers to plug Kat into a new world using experimental, state-of-the-art technology. When Simon discovers that the Company’s plans are less than virtuous he smuggles himself into the virtual world in search of Kat. The authors sketch a believable, not-too-distant future, envisioning the evolution of virtual reality as a truly seductive life choice. The Otherworld itself is fairly standard fantasy stuff, with knights, dragons, witches, wizards, and cities. Simon journeys through this dangerous land and struggles against a chosen-one narrative thrust upon him by the game’s indigenous inhabitants and players alike. This thread blends with the Company’s corporate-intrigue plot points deliciously, but the book’s place as series opener lessens the development in some frustrating ways. Equally maddening is Kat’s damsel-in-distress status; she is less a character and more a goal until the novel’s very end.
An exciting start to a mostly well-conceived sci-fi series that has room for improvement. (Science fiction. 12-17)