4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
This is the second in a series by Dan Wells. A group of virtual reality gamers have been invited to an exclusive tournament being sponsored by a internet service provider. This is the team’s big chance to make a name for themselves, and to top it all off, the tournament is being hosted by one of their idols. They are going up against serious pro teams, though, and the CEO’s daughter has put together an all-star team. She is enough of a spoiled brat that cheating might not be out of the question either…
These books are a really great balance of characters. Everyone has a personality and enough of a fleshed out backstory that they really read like people. This is something of a rarity in a lot of science fiction, since most of the attention is on action and world building, not character development. Marisa and her team read like a group of really close friends that have their own quirks, inside jokes, and histories.
One of the main issues in this book is Internet service as a basic resource/ human right instead of a luxury, and that is a neat talking point for what is becoming more and more true today. In the world of the novel, people are more linked in physically to the technology and it is more sophisticated, but many of the points are still salient. People need the internet to communicate, inform and connect in my part of the world at least (North America). You cannot apply to a lot of jobs without a connection, you need an email address for just about everything and news sources are becoming more and more digital. I would not be surprised if paper daily newspapers were extinct within a decade. The internet as a necessity is inches closer and closer to reality, and we might need to start considering regulating internet service providers more heavily.
The serious bits of this book are interspersed with fun details of the VR competition. Wells has put in enough detail about the combat system to make it a really compelling read, but since it is simulated, it is light-hearted enough to balance out the more serious bits of the book.
This series is fun and compelling. The characters are realistic and I loved reading about their adventures. Go ahead and read with impunity!