Review: Erebos

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: ErebosErebos by Ursula Poznanski
Published by Annick Press on January 19, 2012
Genres: Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 440
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

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.

In Soviet Russia, game plays you. Okay, so this novel is set in Britain, not the Soviet Union, but I couldn’t resist the joke. Because this game really does play you. For those of you who are frustrated by a friend or loved one who neglects you for video games, be grateful that they don’t have this one. This is one computer parents really should be afraid of their kids playing.

It’s funny reading this book, because I know that I would probably have accepted the disk (assuming someone tried to give me one anyway, which would have been doubtful in high school), totally without intention of keeping its secrets, out of desperation to know what the heck was going on. Unlike the people in the book, I doubt I would have been sucked in. Likely, because I would have died immediately. I am not skilled at this kind of game. Or, I would have wanted some food or to go to the bathroom, pissing off (punned) the Messenger, the guy in control of the game world.

At first, I wasn’t particularly into this book. I considered stopping, but persisted because of the amazing reviews I saw of it. Turns out I’m glad I stuck with it, although this isn’t a book I would ever reread. It was still good, and dealt with some really fascinating concepts.

As much as I said that I would not enjoy playing the game, I can still appreciate how freaking cool the game itself is. If you are a gamer and do not desperately wish you could play Erebos, something is wrong with you. Just kidding…mostly. The game has so many possibilities, because of the AI in it. Wow.

The characterization wasn’t all that great, at least not in the real world. Nick and Emily, who get the most screen time, never really felt like real people to me. The others, of course, were incredibly one dimensional, like Colin, for example. He and Nick were best friends, but the reader never learns a single good thing about Colin. He’s almost the villain of the piece. Actually, the two characters who seem most realistic are Victor and Adrian, who have smaller parts.

On the other hand, everything and everyone in the world of Erebos seems so much more real. This was likely done intentionally. The reason people could not escape from the game, and, often, had mental breakdowns when they couldn’t play anymore, was because the artifice felt more real than reality.

So yeah, this was pretty cool. If you have gamer friends who also like to read, they might love this. Present idea!

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