Hello Humans! How many ‘virtual/augmented reality’ books have I read and reviewed to date? Honestly, I don’t think I could tell you, it feels like a lot. Interestingly, most of them have been either standalone books or duologies as opposed to series. The one that definitely is a series is the one I am, obviously, reviewing today! Otherlife is the third book in Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller’s Last Reality series. Time to find out whether this concept is enough to carry across three books?
Simon, Kat, Busara, and Elvis are on the run with the tech super-villains at the Company hot on their heels. The new VR gaming experience the Company created, OtherEarth, will change how the world experiences video games. Paired with the hardware the Company developed, it has the potential to change the world as we know it, altering our reality forever.
The Company is on its way to becoming the world’s newest superpower. And Simon is determined to shut them down forever. But to do that, he’ll have to survive OtherLife–the next phase of gaming, and a complete reality reboot.
This is one of those series, and avid readers will know the ones I mean, where you aren’t 100% sure why you keep reading. I mean, I’ve read all three books in this trilogy and each time I haven’t necessarily been wowed – but I’ve evidently cared enough to pick up the next book. I’d say, therefore, that this book has compelling ideas and plot within it, but that the execution isn’t always great – I’ll get into this in just a bit.
Let’s start with some of the positives – I actually quite liked the female characters in this series. I won’t say they are the paragon of female representation, but they’re much better than some other female side characters in male-dominated YA (*coughs pointedly at Robert Muchamore*). While they were, primarily, romantic interests – they also got to have a role within the story and they did some cool things that definitely affected the plot. They would pass the sexy lamp test.
How about Simon, our protagonist? I almost never get along with male YA protagonists, because most of the time they are just awful, when you bring anything about video games into it they almost always become ten times more awful. In this case, Simon isn’t too bad – especially if you compare him to Wade Watts of Ready Player One fame. What I felt this book was missing was a bit more of an in depth exploration of Simon’s response to the huge life changes that had happened in the last two books. I’m not saying every series has to do what Animorphs does and give you the whole trauma processing timeline, but it did feel like the book did a ‘fade to black and go to many years later when it’s all fine’ – I wanted a bit more humanity from Simon than just ‘I like justice and I love a girl’.
The plot! It was exciting, I’ll give it that. I like that this book started to explore what a virtual world that is out of the control of humanity (for the most part) might be like, and that allowed for more variety of setting (we get to go to a fantasy land within a sci-fi book?). The actual ‘we fight the baddies’ element of the story was a little lacklustre in my opinion. As some other reviewers have mentioned, the main villain(s) feel a little two dimensional, and while the book touches on some of the ethical dilemmas that come with VR and AR I feel like more could be made of that through the villains.
I also felt like a lot of things that felt as though they were supposed to be big shocking reveals felt mind-numbingly obvious. I know a lot of people enjoy books that are predictable so I won’t fault that, but it felt odd that the characters wouldn’t realise what was happening? It’s a tricky thing to write well, and I’ve struggled with it too, to make a world where the characters are smart enough to beat the villain but can’t work out something that feels very obvious to the reader?
Overall, I think this would be a good series to recommend to young people who perhaps aren’t so into reading, it has a lot of the elements that I think those individuals would enjoy and they don’t take too much time or effort to read. If you’re a devourer of fiction like myself I’d probably say you can give these a miss, if you’re looking for a science fiction/ dystopian YA thriller I’d go for Emily Suvada’s This Mortal Coil.
My rating: ⅗ stars
I received a digital copy of this book for free from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Otherlife is available now!
What say you? Will you be picking this up? Let me know in the comments below!