Review: Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

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

Review: Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten MillerOtherworld by Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller
Narrator: Jason Segel
Length: 10 hrs, 33 mins
Series: Otherworld #1
Published by Listening Library on October 31, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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half-star

For fans of Black Mirror and HBO's Westworld, and readers of James Dashner and Veronica Roth, Otherworld is the first book in New York Times bestselling authors Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller's new YA sci-fi-thriller series. The future is now. And the future is terrifying.

There are no screens. There are no controls. You don't just see and hear it--you taste, smell, and touch it too. In this new reality, there are no laws to break or rules to obey. You can live your best life. Indulge every desire.
It's a game so addictive you'll never want it to end. Until you realize that you're the one being played.
Welcome to Otherworld, where reality is dead. Step into the future. Leave your body behind.

The frightening future that Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller have imagined is not far away. Otherworld asks the question we'll all soon be asking: if technology can deliver everything we want, how much are we willing to pay?

Though the premise  for Otherworld didn’t exactly set my world on fire, I was actually rather excited to get the audiobook. Segel and Miller’s prior effort together, the Nightmares! series, was actually pretty good, and Segel’s narration for it was really fun to listen to, despite not being super my thing. Otherworld is more pertinent to my interests than the middle grade series, so I thought I’d like this quite a bit. Unfortunately, I was dead wrong. Otherworld lacks in originality and also offended me the whole way through.

Plot-wise, Otherworld is pretty much exactly what you would expect from the blurb. It’s heavily borrowing from Westworld, with humans able to travel into a game scenario where the characters have self-awareness and begin to fight back. In addition, it’s every book about a nerdy dude who gets to live out a nerd fantasy and save the world via video game. There’s a lot here that’s similar to everything that was wrong in Armada, for example.

The plot of the book is like the plot of the average video game. The thing is that most video games have very simple plots which tell the player precisely what to do. When the player accomplishes a goal, they receive a new bit of intelligence to tell them what to do next. This works in a video game because, in most cases, they’re not about the story but about the fun of the play, of having and accomplishing a goal. In a novel, however, it’s boring as fuck. Simon arrives in Otherworld and is told what he must do by a succession of other people; he figures almost nothing out on his own, and it’s all so incredibly tedious.

In some ways, that’s the good part though. The big problem with this book is the MC. Simon creeps me the fuck out, which he’s really not supposed to. The book keeps telling me that he’s a nice guy and a genius, but there’s no evidence of absolutely any of that. What there is solid evidence of is that Simon is a stalker. He stalks his childhood friend and crush (he terms it love, but obviously I’m going to disagree), Kat. She tells him to stay away and he keeps coming. Of course, in the end, she just wanted him to stay away because she didn’t want him to get hurt, so it’s totally fine and he’s a hero, but oh my god he stalked her. The amount that he’s focused on her is also just incredibly terrifying. He literally does not give a shit about anything or anyone else: he does end up helping others in Otherworld but only because he knows Kat would want him to.

At the beginning of the book, while he’s still stalking Kat, he hears girls at the school slut-shaming her because sometimes she sleeps over at boys’ houses. Simon, incensed, tells the girls off. He gives them a lecture on feminism; he actually mansplains feminism to these girls. Which, you know, would maybe be semi-okay if he didn’t follow it up by blackmailing them into never saying mean things about Kat ever again with sexy photos he had his hacker (roommate at prior school who he took the fall for and who now has to hack for Simon whenever he wants) get off their phones. HE LECTURES THEM ON FEMINISM FOR SLUT-SHAMING AND THEN BLACKMAILS AND SLUT-SHAMES THEM WITH PRIVATE PHOTOS HE HAD SOMEONE HACK FROM THEIR PHONES.

Already I hated this guy more than “hate” really conveys. Abhored. Loathed with every fiber of my being. He meets a black girl who is ~mysteriously involved in the mystery~ and they start trying to help each other out. She reveals that she doesn’t date boys or girls, and he asks her if she is an android. Because not feeling sexual desire means you’re a robot. Incidentally, she just thinks it’s funny, and this continues to be a thing he says about her, as well as her characterization being very robotic. And, also, be prepared, if for some reason you want to read this shitshow, to have basically every character described with the word “psycho.”

After a ~mysterious~ accident brings a building down on some kids during a party, Kat, who was there (Simon was of course there too, uninvited, because he FOLLOWED HER) ends up in a coma. She’s in a coma for pretty much the entire book. Somehow Kat’s mother gives Simon the right to be in her hospital room, which scares the shit out of me, my god. While he’s in her hospital room, he hopes that, given the extent of her injuries, she will have “a life worth living,” which seemed really fucking ableist to me. As she lies there unconscious in bed, he says to her, before he knows about the video game sitch, “Kat, if you don’t come out of this, I’m going to come after you.” TO A GIRL IN A COMA. This guy creeps the ever-loving shit out of me. When the doctors first come in and say they’re going to have to shave her head for an experimental treatment (aka video game full reality thingamabob), he yells at them not to, because god forbid his love not have perfect hair.

In Otherworld, Simon is designated “the One” by all of the supporting cast, to make sure we all know that the white savior trope is in full force here. He teams up with avatars who turn out to represent a housewife and a 13-year-old male POC (it’s been a few days so my memory is blurry, but I think he was Black). Both of them sacrifice their lives for Simon, because he is more important than they are. That is a real shitty as fuck thing that happens in a book in 2017, and it’s not even subtle about it at all. (The boy does survive miraculously, but the woman is permanently dead.) Both Kat and the other girl IRL (I audiobooked so names are harder for me than usual, and she’s not mentioned in any reviews that I can find) end up apologizing to Simon for not deferring to his judgment at all times, and he seriously gives them both a hard time for ever making even the slightest mistake. THIS GUY IS A MONSTER. RUN.

I don’t say this often, because very rarely do I think it’s deserved, but do not read this book. Unless you’re into shallow male fantasies where women are a prize to be won and only a white male can save everyone, which dear god why the fuck would you be into that, do not touch this book. The writing, plotting, world building, and characterization are all atrocious. Even Segel’s narration can’t save this disgusting mess, because all I can think is that he did this.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

2 responses to “Review: Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller”

  1. Hmm, I never read Nightmares!, but this has been on my maybe list, and I’ve seen it get some very positive reviews and some extremely negative ones.

    I can kind of get paying bullies back with their own weapon of choice, but certainly a lot of this seems very problematic.

    I’ve seen some people saying this is a copy of a series by Tad Williams called Otherland, but I can’t say anything about that, since the only Williams book I’ve read is Tailchaser’s Song, an epic fantasy… with cats.

  2. Damn. I was mildly interested in this one… was being the operative word. Thanks so much for reviewing this one. lol
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – The Last Hours by Minette WaltersMy Profile

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