Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?
But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.
The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever."
Let's just start there. I'm not generally a sci-fi reader, but was a bit intrigued by the premise of cyberterrorism--what the heck is that, right? I like the internet as much as the next technology driven, iphone/pad/mac-toting person, so a book that explores the possibility of people being tormented by "Killsims" and a virtual bully who can literally leave people dead at the end of what was supposed to be a casual cyber game, is a bit mind boggling, and a bit frightening.
In the story, we're introduced to Michael, who is this gamer with some pretty amazing skills to code and hack through firewalls and systems. The thing is, as you read the story, he seems to really take you through his "gaming" in real time, like a person just walking through it in real time. At the same time, he can hack away at the coding of these games in such a way that he can change the course of the game and what happens at any given moment--which is what makes Michael so valuable and important in the fight against the cyberterrorism.
Michael and his friends Bryson and Sarah get roped in by the VNS to fight a supposed powerhouse in the world of cyberterrorism, named Kaine. To do this, they had to set out on a major journey in the "VirtNet," which mainly took them through a series of journeys and virtual battles to "hack" through code to find their enemy. The issue really becomes, who or what is Kaine, and what does he/she/it really want to begin with?
To say that I liked the book is true, but not really hitting home. It's not a kick-back-and-enjoy sort of read, in that it's tense, contains an awful lot of violence, and really makes you stick with it to figure it out. There's that moment where you feel like you're comparing it to something you've either read or watched before, but then it does something totally unique that throws it in another direction. The characters really never stop moving in the story, and they never allow us a chance to take too much time to understand how or why they do what they do. Half of the time you feel like you literally have a moment to breathe before the character is moved on to the next sequence of events. That only speeds up the action and adds to the crazy pacing of the novel, which is over much too soon!
On the whole, mind--blown. I liked it a lot. In fact, I walked it in to the Popular Literature class I teach and read the first nine pages to my students. When I finished, they were angry with me for stopping! Literally, those first nine pages were enough to suck them in. I have to agree with them! I definitely recommend this for teen readers, for sure, or anyone who likes strong sci fi/action novels. It does have a good deal of violence in it, but no more than many dystopian novels that are out currently. It is a really smart novel, and one that I will be eager to read future installments of down the road!
*FTC Disclosure: This review was based on an Amazon Vine ARC of the novel.