Review: Gamers

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

Review: GamersGamers by Thomas K. Carpenter
Series: Gamers #1
Published by Author on June 13, 2011
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction
Pages: 324
Format: Paperback
Source: Author

Two points for brushing your teeth. Ten points for keeping your room tidy. Seventy-two points for the Bioeconomic Game Design pop quiz on the ride to school in your personal FunCar. Another thirty for making every hurdle in gym class.

Life is a game, unless you're not the one winning.

Gabby DeCorte, top student and reality-hacker extraordinaire, has been doing whatever it takes to keep her best friend, Zaela, from falling behind in LifeGame. Zaela has gifts of artistry that amaze Gabby, but none of those skills translate in LifeGame and with final exams coming up, they can't afford to waste a single minute. But when a mysterious group called the Frags contacts Gabby claiming to know what really happens to the losers of LifeGame, she must choose between winning and what she believes in.

First Sentence: “The green sky loomed over the high school track like a bowl of pea soup upended.”

Gamers is one of two self-pubs I have on my list to read for Dystopian February. Though I’m generally skeptical of self-published books, Thomas K. Carpenter sent me a real review request, one where he’d looked up my name and read some of my work. I appreciate when the requesters have done their due diligence before contacting me, and his book actually fit within the broad swath of genres I enjoy, which happens surprisingly rarely.

Like a few other dystopian novels I’ve read, Gamers considers a society where life is like a video game, the average person a mere player moving about in an artificial reality. The construct is a fascinating one, which is no doubt the reason it’s proved so popular with authors. What’s cool about it, though, is that, even though I’ve read at least four books which used this basic premise, they all have been able to do unique things with it, because the landscape and functioning of the gaming world can vary so widely.

The gamers get points for everything they do, from taking tests to personal hygiene to leisure activities. These points add up to a Life Score, a number which determines your ranking and whether the person will be able to attend college. This is LifeGame, where people walk around collecting points like Mario collects little gold coins from his car in MarioKart.

What’s really cool about Gamers are the layers of gaming. From within LifeGame, the players can enter another game. It makes me wonder where real life actually begins. There’s a sort of Inception-like quality to it, in that there’s no way to say where the game ends. Every aspect of your life can be peered into and affected by a hacker or coder. It’s a really scary thought.

The first half of Gamers reads like a science fiction novel, setting up the world and establishing how LifeGame works. Once that’s done, you learn the inevitable dark underbelly of the world. At about the midway point, there’s a sort of genre change when, from within LifeGame, Gabby and the other students enter a game as their final test to determine whether they will get into college. The game has the feel of a high fantasy video game. I found both parts entertaining, and fast-paced.

The characters never really grabbed me, and do not develop all that much over the course of the novel. I do appreciate, though, the complex relationships between Zaela, Gabby, and Avony. They could have been a bit more deftly-handled, but I like that they’re not black and white, and none of the girls is demonized or placed on a pedestal. No one in Gamers comes off as utterly perfect, which is a nice change from so many idealized YA heroines.

So far as the editing goes, I do think Gamers could benefit from a bit more editing. I noticed several errors, but they weren’t on every page by any mean. The strangest errors were misspellings with double letters, like scrapping instead of scraping, chaffed instead of chafed, and gripped instead of griped.

Gamers is a quick, enjoyable, fast-paced dystopian read. I think it is best-suited perhaps for a younger teen, even middle grade, audience or for more reluctant readers. As of 2/12/13, the Kindle edition is free temporarily on Amazon, on sale from $5.99, so if you’re curious there’s no better time!

Favorite Quote:

“‘Next time could you kill some errant chefs or something? I’m hungry and all, but this jerky is awful. I think I almost prefer a stick to it.'”

12 responses to “Review: Gamers”

  1. Stephanie says:

    Great self-pubbed book review! I’m not sure I’m going to try this one, just b/c the synopsis doesn’t grab me and my to-read list is a mile long. But I’m glad you didn’t hate it, at least!

  2. Oh its nice to see a review of a self published book. I think Gamers, as you described it in your review, is something I would probably appreciate reading. I like face-paced dystopian. The gaming environment adds an interesting twist too. Very crafty. I’m glad you like the characters. I’ve been reading too many stories lately where the characters have been just “meh”.

  3. Kelly says:

    It makes me wonder where real life actually begins. There’s a sort of Inception-like quality to it, in that there’s no way to say where the game ends. Every aspect of your life can be peered into and affected by a hacker or coder.

    I love this analogy, because it really does describe Gamers well. I struggled with the characters as well, but mostly I had questions about the world – why has no one ever questioned what happens to the people who DON’T get into University? But, like you, I gave it a three for being fast and enjoyable nonetheless!

  4. oh this is the first time I hear about this book! I absolutely LOVE dystopians, and I enjoy fast paced books! Great review dear!
    – Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  5. Giselle says:

    Oh what is this? Her eyes! She is looking INTO MY SOUL!!

    And it sounds so cool! Dude Mario and MarioKart are my teen years! >.< Do they get to jump on mushrooms? Please say yes!! I’ve read a few gaming dystopian plots like these but this one sounds really different from the others. The whole system sounds pretty well thought up and created. Too bad about the characters though sounds like it could have been epiv with more development in that area. Sounds pretty awesome for a self up regardless though! Props!

    • Christina says:

      She’s gonna get youuuuuuuu!

      There are some Mario references, but I don’t remember any mushroom jumping.

      The gaming ones do have a lot of variety. It’s cool because this one starts out as one sort of game and then switches to another.

  6. LisaILJ says:

    I have never heard of this book before now, and I probably never would have if you hadn’t reviewed it. Thanks for the review. I have to do some more research on this one.

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