A computer game with a hidden agenda entraps teen users into doing its bidding in this prizewinning import.
Booting up a program that has fellow students stumbling exhaustedly into school or cutting classes altogether, Londoner Nick finds himself in Erebos. This violent realm of swords and sorcery is controlled by a yellow-eyed "messenger" who knows a startling amount about Nick from the outset and offers compelling incentives to keep him riveted to his computer. But along with being totally forbidden to talk about the game, Nick discovers that advancement within it requires him to perform missions in the outside world... increasingly disturbing, even harmful ones. Poznanski tightens the suspense nicely as Nick, refusing at last a command to poison a certain teacher, is permanently ejected from Erebos and then nearly murdered before he discovers the true, ugly purpose of the game.
The mystery is unraveled thanks to a too-obvious clue, but the scary climax, a romantic subplot and plenty of thoroughly credible gaming add proper spark to a pageturner with amps aplenty. (Science fiction/thriller. 12-15)