A very entertaining read, I should say, in the young-adult sci-fi genre. This book is fun, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor delve too deeply into high fantasy, as many in this genre seem to these days. A few years ago, this might have been considered pure science fiction, with its Terminator-style storyline of artificial intelligence acquiring self-awareness and setting out on a path for world domination, but this one is perhaps for slightly younger readers in the early-teen age group. The language is very mild, there is no violence as such, and the threat level is pretty cartoonish. There is an existential threat, of course – as there always is – but the author thankfully resists portraying full-on dystopia. The book generally has the feel of being inside a video game – which is of course its premise. A little like Ready Player One, the young, gamer-community protagonists have to fight it out in a virtual world to defeat the apparently unstoppable army of robots, cyborgs, machines and any manner of creature the insane, megalomanic supervillain can conjure up in a millisecond. Like Agent Smith in The Matrix, RAZER’s army comprises a digitally created force entirely of his own supercomputer imagination.
Final Video Game was good in the first half, and promised to be a fun, exciting adventure – and it delivered in that, action-packed throughout as it is – though after midway I felt it wasn’t really going anywhere until the final quarter, when the third-act climax starts to unfold. In its defence, it is nice to see a book in this genre which doesn’t leave you hanging, infuriatingly, without an ending; I won’t spoil it, but you do feel it resolves well, yet still leaves enough little tantalizing threads for a sequel. That third quarter, though, does feel like it repeats a touch. It is pure action once the teenage global army of video-gamers goes into battle, but it can feel quite drawn out and long at times. The story proceeds well, for sure, but I felt that much of the action was chaotic in comparison to the plot arc. As for the characters, I really found myself liking the kids in this book, which is quite unusual for me; I often find young-adult protagonists quite intolerable, and indeed find myself rooting for the villains. But that wasn’t the case here; quite the contrary, in fact. Oliver was smart, endearing and a great little hero, along with his troop of friends turned adolescent soldiers. Furthermore, in contrast I found RAZER quite annoying. The artificially-generated villain, who perhaps brings to mind evil samurai in an 80s fighting game, was wise-cracking and humorous throughout. While this started out quite a laugh, I felt that his jive-talking act wore thin, and after a while found myself thinking: Just unplug him. Additionally, truth be told, I felt that if he really wanted to he could have just wiped out the rebels and indeed the world in a millisecond. But, of course, that’s not Craig’s objective; like Jumanji, this battle is designed to resemble a video game as closely as possible – the thousands of kids fighting it even have limited lives, with seriously grave stakes should they lose them, which is always a great premise to play with.
I did enjoy this book, it’s true, and indeed it is much better than the usual in its genre, but perhaps felt like I was going to enjoy it just a little more than I did, as promising as it was in the first half. Still, I am a fan of Craig Speakes, and if you are too then I recommend you take a look at this one. If you’re less mean-spirited and sour-faced than me you’ll probably just have fun with it – which is all the author intended (the obvious A.I. cautionary tale aside). I like Craig’s eclectic portfolio, and I am always keen to see what he comes up with next.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: craig-speakes sci-fi science-fiction futuristic adventure young-adult artificial-intelligence video-game younger-readers