Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

Title: Erebos
Author: Ursula Poznanski
Publisher: Annick Press
Genre: YA
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis: An intelligent computer game with a disturbing agenda.

When 16-year-old Nick receives a package containing the mysterious computer game Erebos, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. Players of the game 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.

Review: Nick Dunmore starts noticing his friends are acting strangely. They're skipping school, acting super tired and generally suspicious. What's causing the change is an underground video game called "Erebos." There are basically two rules to playing "Erebos" - You MUST play alone and you cannot talk about the game to anyone at all. Lastly, you only get one chance to play the game so you better make it count (no unlimited lives here).

When Nick receives a copy of the game DVD, he quickly succumbs to it. As the game slowly begins crossing lines between what is play and what is reality, Nick is thrust straight into an almost "secret society" of players. To excel in the game, he is forced to lie and perform seemingly odd tasks in the outside world. What he's not aware of is that he is part of a tangled web of deceit that comes to a tipping point at the book's climax.

The first half of the book moved extremely slowly for me. There are drawn out descriptions of game play that are really boring and end up being not at all important to the end. As a person who plays "World of Warcraft" religiously, I had a really, really hard time believing just how addicted people got to this game and what they were willing to do in the outside world to succeed within it. It was pretty ridiculous that a game can have so much control over your life. It was also really difficult for me to believe that people obeyed the two rules mentioned above so strictly. I mean, it's a game - played by teenagers.

Along the same line of disbelief, the actual level of sophistication that this game had was also completely ridiculous. Maybe I would have been more keen on believing it if the book was set in the future - but definitely not present day! The things that the game is capable of knowing are just mind-boggling and that, to me, makes it too unbelievable to be effective. The level of artificial intelligence displayed in the game is a long, long time away.

The second half of the book picked up a lot more, but when the final reveal came I was rather...disappointed. I'm not sure what I was expecting out of the end but it was something way more epic than what actually happened. It would have been nice to have everything tied together with a greater dose of realism.

Overall, the book's concept was a great one but the execution was not to my liking.

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