As the story begins, Noah has been in a car accident and is in a coma. Somehow, the doctors are able to hook him up to the Dream Engine, a virtual reality helmet that immerses him in an online fantasy game. The main premise is that he needs to stay alive in the game or he will go into a coma in real life. Except that he is already in a coma, so that doesn’t make any sort of sense at all. And regardless of this, Noah makes a lot of stupid choices and takes some ridiculous risks.
The first several chapters were backstory, probably necessary for setting up the parameters of the tale, but boring nonetheless. The extensive tutorials were especially mind-numbing. And that’s from someone who is a non-gamer, who probably needed at least some basic framework for what was happening. For people familiar with gameplay, it would probably be even more tedious. There’s no way my teenage kids would sit through all of that in a tutorial, let alone read it in a book. They just jump right in and start playing the game. Overall, there really isn’t anything that pulls you into the story.
Noah’s real life girlfriend, Sue, was also involved in the car crash, and she is near to death throughout most of the narrative. Not only do we learn hardly anything about her during the course of the entire book, but Noah doesn’t seem to have any real connection to her, even less so than he does for the other characters in the book, most of whom he has only recently met in a virtual setting. He actually refers to her as having a “mousy face.” Seriously?? That’s how he thinks of his girlfriend that he is supposed madly in love with? At the same time, he very minutely describes the face, hair, and especially body of every female character that he runs into in the game. He certainly doesn’t let his feelings for Sue stop him from getting involved in a very weird and awkward wanna-be love-triangle with a couple of girls in the game. And yet we’re supposed to believe that he is so in love with her that he’ll risk everything, including his virtual and real-world life, to try to save what he believes is a portion of her personality? It just doesn’t ring true for me.
At every turn in the story, there is the suggestion of a conspiracy. Some things do end up being part of a bigger agenda on behalf of the corporation running the game. But many others are just never explained or followed up on.
And what in the heck is going on in the real world while all of the gameplay is happening? If the powers that be for the Dream Engine are so intent on finding information that they believe Noah or someone close to him has, why aren’t we hearing about them harassing his friends and family in real life?
I really wondered why, if they can cut Noah off from being able to access his spells and possessions, as they do in one of the final battles, why couldn’t they have just haven taken the item they are seeking from his inventory long ago? Or even just deleted it, since it is, after all, just a virtual game.
The ending had to be the dumbest part for me. Noah knows that his friends are in danger, and that the culprits won’t stop going after them, in the game, and quite possibly in real life. But he just proceeds to leave them, with hardly even a farewell or explanation. Is this really the end of the story?? Or is there a sequel in the works? Either way, I found it to be a totally lame ending.
If you enjoy monotonous stories with extensive descriptions of gameplay, and if you have a very strong ability to engage a willing suspension of disbelief, this may be the book for you. Otherwise, I wouldn’t really recommend it.
I received a digital copy of this book from Future House Publishing in exchange for an honest review.