Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
So, I’m definitely not one of the “gamer girls” that this book was inspired by, but wow–I absolutely loved it. Although the first couple chapters did give me very strong Ready Player One vibes and had me questioning the originality of the plot, as the story progressed, I forgot about that initial notion entirely. The story was well-paced, funny, exciting, sweet, and actually made me laugh out loud (Marie Lu’s actually quite good at making me emotional, although this book didn’t make me cry like Champion did). There was depth to many of the characters in the story, and hints of depth to others that I’m sure / really hope will be explored and revealed in the accompanying novels. As I hinted at earlier, something I really appreciated about this book was that I felt that I was able to fully enjoy it despite not being a gamer.
Although the story was built around gamer culture and a VR video game, it was very well explained, and, knowing next to nothing about video game culture, I never felt confused (as I did in Ready Player One, which was chock full of obscure gamer references). There was a noticeable shift in the plot’s pace as the story progressed, and the last ten or so chapters flew by much more quickly than the first half of the book, but that seems understandable given the necessary setup and foregrounding required at the beginning. I would have appreciated more detail about the occurrences of the last few chapters, and the timeline began to feel a bit fuzzy near the ending, but overall I think it was an adequately-paced plot. My one dislike in this novel was the romance–I had a feeling it was going to happen from the opening chapter, and it just felt very anticlimactic and dry to me. The relationship didn’t seem to have any real basis, and the characters’ time together was brief and unsettling, making the deeper conversations and physical interactions seem forced and off. Given the big reveal near the end, it’s possible this was intentional on Lu’s part, and played a role in the plot twist. Although I felt off about Hideo, I definitely didn’t see the plot twist coming, and that’s something I really appreciated, even though I had a strong dislike for the predictability of his and Emika’s relationship.
There were so many times throughout this book that I stopped and reread a sentence, thinking “wow,” or “yes!” or “this is too real.” That’s something I particularly love about fantasy and science fiction. Humanity and human nature remains constant, no matter the realism of the setting. Overall, this is a book I would recommend to anyone (but especially to those drawn to sci-fi and dystopian lit); the writing flowed seamlessly, and I had such a great time reading it after such a long time away from the genre and Marie Lu’s writing.
Thank you for reading!