Otherworld – Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller

‘There are guys online who swear it was heaven. They still sit around like a bunch of old geezers swapping tales of epic storms, monstrous beasts and grizzly battles.’

otherworld.jpg

Welcome to real life 2.0
Are you ready to play?
There are no screens – there are no controls.
You don’t just see and hear it – you taste touch and smell it too.
In this new reality there are no rules to follow, no laws to break.
You can indulge your every desire.
Why would you ever want to leave?
Step into the Otherworld
Leave your body behind

What I thought

I’m going to start with what I didn’t like as for me it was a big enough issue that it stopped me from actively enjoying this book. One of my first thoughts while reading it was ‘Brilliant – there’s a character called Kat, I can use that for the PopSugar challenge’. However as I continued to read it I realised that I was uncomfortable using this for the challenge as Kat isn’t really a character. Yes she exists, she’s the motivation for what most of what Simon does, she even says a few line *gasp, shock, horror* and is apparently a very good gamer *again shock, horror*. But she’s not an actual character. She’s a fetishised/idealised version of the perfect gamer girl, who doesn’t know how brilliant or how pretty she is. It’s quite clear that Kat is the exception rather than the rule and that gamer girls are laughed at and don’t really exist. Kat isn’t allowed to make mistakes or have any flaws as a real rounded person does. Instead the the book shows that Simon loves Kat but is too good for Simon, until the very end when she realises the nice/correct guy was in front of her the whole time and she’d been doing them a disservice by putting him in the friendzone.
I’m aware that I’m going to get on my soapbox here but guys, if a girl tells you she doesn’t want to go out with you just accept it and move on. Stop complaining that you’re ‘only a friend’ as though our friendship isn’t enough.  It just came across as though this book was written for ‘real’ gamers and that almost all girls weren’t part of that group.  Unfortunately this feeling continued throughout the book and just made me feel constantly on edge and overpowered all the good things about this book to make it my lasting impression. And there ARE some really good things in this book, if it wasn’t for the idealised gamer-girl syndrome I would have loads of fun with this book and instantly gone on a hunt for book 2.

It is definitely more in-depth and darker than Ready Player one, which was very nostalgic and looked to the games of the past. Otherworld is much more about designing brand new worlds where the main appeal is that there are no laws and you indulge in your darkest desires. And they really do live a much darker lives, and this book doesn’t shy away from violence and blood. Heads get pulled off by hand, and most players engage in PK-ing (Player Kills rather than the more traditional monster kills). For most players the deaths have no consequence, the whole point of Otherworld is that there are NO consequences. And even if you tells people that there are coma patients who will die in real life if you kill them in the game they don’t care. Why would they? Think about all the darkness and abuse that is on twitter from being able to hide behind an anonymous label. This is amplified and unfortunately feels very real, when people are able to hide in the internet they don’t think about how what they do will impact other people.

The idea of people with locked-in syndrome or coma patients being given technology to live in an AI world is a really interesting one and one I could see potentially becoming reality in the future. It gives them some form of a life and not just spending their days in a bed unable to move or communicate with the outside world. But it’s the way that it’s done her – on the sly without asking permission or even suggesting to anyone what they are doing. And the world they have thrown them into is hardly a safe one, it’s a dark unforgiving world and most of the unwilling inhabitants have no clue what is going on and get themselves killed because of it.

Finally I want to give kudos for the way the AIs are dealt with, they are the ‘Children’ of this world and the players are all simply guests, and unwelcome guests at that. Whenever AIs are imagined it is mostly assumed that they will serve humanity or they are horror stories about it going wrong. But I think calling them ‘Children’ is the right way to go, if they really are an intelligent then you can’t assume they will grow or develop in the way that you want. Just in the way that children argue back and don’t do what you want them to do.
I really felt for each of the Children whose world was a peaceful one until the ‘guest’ appeared and started killing them and making the world darker and darker.

Why I read it

After enjoying Ready Player One and (im)pateintly waiting for the next Sword Art Online Progressive novel I was on the look out for another book with characters stuck/living in a game world. It’s an idea that really interests me so I was looking forward to reading a different take on it. I’d been told that in this world people who were suffering from ‘locked in’ sybdrome were still given a whole world to explore.
It was also a bit different from the list of books I wanted to read before YALC.

Final Thought

I’m really in two minds about this book. I love the concept but just feel that the way it was written was a bit clumsy. For me this is one that had loads of potential but it just didn’t come together for me. The way the gamer-girl was written and idealised made me feel a bit uncomfortable. However the way people act in Otherworld and indulge in all sorts of depravity felt very real.
I’ve given my copy to a friend as I’d love to have his reaction to it and see what he has to say about it.
This isn’t a BAD book, but the way it treated it’s ONLY female character made me feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed all the positives

Would I recommend? Unsure. It’s not bad I just felt a bit uncomfortable at the idealisation of the female character to the point she stopped being her own person. I’d be interested to read a version of this story from Kat’s point of view.

Challenges

PopSugar: Book by two authors

Read Harder: First book in a YA series

I really tried not to be too harsh about this book. It has a lot of really good things going for it but I found the characterisation continued to turn me off. Please DO let me know if you’ve read this one and tell me what I’m missing.
Can people recommend more books in this genre? I really enjoy reading them and am always on the look out for more.

Rea

P.S The next book is ‘Fat girl on a plane’ by Kelly deVos

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