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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

I believe I've mentioned several times that my husband and I met online playing a MMORPG called EverQuest (13 years ago!) For both of us, EQ was a completely addictive experience, we'd both spend hours and hours a day in the virtual world of elves, barbarians, orcs, battles and quests. In hindsight it was absolutely crazy, but at the time it was a great deal of fun, and I miss a lot of the companionship of it* and parts of it became part of my identity.  So when I first read a review of Erebos, I was instantly intrigued.

An intelligent computer game with a disturbing agenda.
When 16-year-old Nick gets a package, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. The package contains the mysterious computer game Erebos. Players must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.
Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.
Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur.
This utterly convincing and suspenseful thriller originated in Germany where it has become a runaway bestseller.
So Nick's friends are all addicted to this computer game that they can't talk about and Nick can't wait to get his hands on a copy. He finally does and is immediately sucked into the world. He makes a character and begins fighting battles and attempting to become one of the chosen favorites who will battle the ultimate enemy at the "end" of the game. The crazy thing about Erebos though, is that it seems to be alive- it knows what you're doing outside of the game. The game slowly builds, asking more and more of it's players, until they are so far entrenched that they would do something shocking for it. It's a really great concept and parts of it are really well done. I loved the play time and the intricacy of the game details.  It really made me want to go back to EverQuest for a bit.

However. It had some flaws. First, I didn't feel like the character interactions and the game details were written to the same level of reader. The gaming parts are detailed, full of suspense and mystery and foreshadowing, but the conversation and interactions between the characters felt much more juvenile. The romance was completely awkward and unbelievable, and unnecessary. The addition of an all knowing super geek to help them out should be a great idea, but Victor is a total caricature and the book never explains why they should trust him at all. None of the characters are very well fleshed out at all, for that matter. And last, the suspension of disbelief needed to believe that this is even possible for a game to do is just too much.  I have no problems with believing in the addiction to the game and the sleepless nights and can fully understand the lines between reality and fiction blurring for the players (Mike and I referred to each other, in person, by our game names for months after I moved here!) but I can't quite buy that AI could be this advanced without a human brain behind it.

Overall, still a good book, but not a great one.

*I'd compare the social interactions to what many of you get from Twitter, but with the added bit of playing a game together while you chat.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via Net Galley for review.

1 comment:

  1. I think my son would like this one, except for the awkward romance bits.


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