Monday 10 September 2012

METAWARS 1: Fight For The Future by Jeff Norton - review by Julienne Durber

As regular readers of Demention will know, my book reviews normally feature an interview with the author followed by a short round-up and opinion from me.
This week's review of METAWARS 1: Fight For The Future by Jeff Norton is different - because METAWARS is different.

As usual, leave me a comment to be entered into the prize draw for a pristine copy of METAWARS 1: Fight For The Future, tweet and repost on FB to be entered twice more (you know the deal.)

Giveaway closes on 1st October. Winner's name will be posted here.

For a full review of METAWARS, its place within the Demention boys vs girls debate, and its potential as book one of a series ... read on.

METAWARS 1: Fight For The Future is part one of the story of Jonah Delacroix who is drawn into a battle for control of the Metasphere - the virtual world that the internet has become, where your avatar is your identity and you aren't restricted by the laws of gravity or geography from the physical world.  He has to struggle against both real-world and virtual dangers as he searches for the truth about his allies, his enemies, and even his own father.

Its basic premise - the hardships of an ecologically corrupt real world forcing the masses into a bleak existence where their only escape from poverty and hardship is to spend what little they have entering a virtual world - isn't ground breaking.  But from the front cover, with its Bansky-esque figure sandwiched between militaristic decay and gleaming future-fantasy, it is clear that METAWARS is precisely, almost achingly, up-to-the-minute.

Jeff Norton
Despite superficial similarities to The Matrix films, the world Norton has created for METAWARS owes far more to early William Gibson (never a bad thing), but the technology feels pin-sharp and is an entirely believable development of where the world currently stands.  And this is what worries me.  The book is tagged as 'The first in an awesome new series', and if the others follow on as I expect, there will probably be another three.  Technology can move a long way in three years, and I wonder whether the devices and methods used will quickly seem dated.

Don't get me wrong, this is a cracking adventure story - a sort of 'Young James Bond in The Matrix'.  Packed with action and danger, it is the most boy-friendly, popcorn-munching thing I have read in ages.  I devoured it with glee as it ticked every boy's-own box in my head.  I even struggled to complete my own personal review game of 'spot when something convenient happens to allow a dodgy plan to work'.

And the emotional content is high - no real romantic involvement, but some heart-plucking moments surrounding Jonah's family both outside and inside the Metasphere add a layer of warmth and up the girl-friendliness quota.

(For first-time visitors to Demention - I have to repeat the point I made in a previous post that I know many girls who like action and boys who appreciate strong emotional content in their stories.  One of the themes we return to at Demention is whether dystopia is sci-fi for girls and vice versa.  See Teri's original post and my response if you want to know more.)

The idea of literally plugging yourself directly into a virtual world has been around for quite a time, and I would have liked to see something fresher.  (Five years ago, the idea of waving a games controller around to play tennis on your tv was ground-breaking, now it's run-of-the-mill.)

But perhaps I am being unfair.  This is a book for right now, a well-constructed world with a crackling plot.  And an ideal entry point into a genre of future worlds, dark technologies and thrilling action.  I really enjoyed it and I want to read the rest soon - while they are still futuristic.

The question I'll leave hanging is: when science fact is advancing so quickly, how far does science-fiction have to go to remain truly futuristic?

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1 comment:

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