yesterday's episode of the Beyond the Trope Podcast, you know what's coming. For those of you haven't, yet, we interviewed Holly Jennings, author of Arena, due out April 5, 2016. And today, I'm reviewing it.
This is my very first advance review of a book. And I was super stoked to read this book. I planned on buying it the day it came out (and STILL plan on picking it up), but getting to read it before we talked to Holly was pretty much the best thing that could've happened for both this blog and the episode we released yesterday.
So, what do I think? The story follows Kali Lang as she maneuvers the world of VR Gaming, along with her teammates. Without giving the story away, I can tell you that it tackles the topics "competition without fun" and "substance abuse" in both a deep, meaningful manner, and keeps them realistic. They aren't ham-handed, the way some "controversial" topics can be, and it's not a bunch of moralizing. But the conflict is there, it's something all of the characters face to one degree or another, and the resolution is satisfying.
I don't want to ruin the rest of the plot, but the main arc alone is worth the read, and the character arcs bring in a depth that fills out the story in a way that makes me excited to see what happens in the NEXT book.
Jennings' word-craft is solid, too. She paints vivid pictures of a world reminiscent of a bright future in direct opposition to old-school cyberpunk. The VR world is just as clear and real, and often times (as designed) more real than the "real world." Many times over the read through, I got lost in the story, rather than focusing on the words themselves, because I could clearly see what was being painted by the narrative.
One line stood out among all the others, though, that smacked me so hard, I was immediately reminded of the opening line Neuromancer by William Gibson. Yes, many of the scenes felt like an homage to classic cyberpunk, but this scene stood out so well that, when we talked to Jennings for the podcast and she told me she'd been reading Neuromancer, I almost shouted, "I knew it!" (I kept my tongue, though, and refrained from killing anyone's eardrums.)
All in all, Jennings has a bright future, and if you DON'T read this book, you're missing out. Seriously, go preorder it RIGHT NOW so you don't forget. And look for the sequel, too.