Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Erebos, by Ursula Poznanzki

Erebos is a fun, moody, thriller of a novel set in the world of computer gaming. 

A mysterious disc is being passed around school, and students are being very secretive and acting strangely. When someone passes a copy of the disc to Nick Dunmore, he finds an incredibly addictive computer game called Erebos. The game wants to keep itself secret and seems to know things about him that it shouldn’t be able to. It assigns him tasks not only within the game, but in the real world too. When Erebos’s influence starts to have serious consequences in the real world, Nick must decide if he wants to win the game, or defeat it.

This is a fun book that does a good job of being exciting while also building a growing and pervasive sense of dread. The characters are a little two-dimensional, but they are interesting and mostly believable. Author Ursula Poznanski does a good job of creating a world and describing the moral dilemmas faced by characters in that world. Actions are sometimes divorced from consequences in the gaming world, but are real life actions that different when someone is offering you a reward for a morally dubious or downright dangerous act?

Some of the character interactions and conversations, particularly outside the game, are a little stilted, especially early in the novel. Some of that may be a result of translating the book from German to English. The description of the game and the depths to which players sink into it seems a little more immersive than should be possible in a game played on a contemporary computer. That being said, I was drawn into the incredibly compelling game within the book as well.

A game with a mind and a goal of its own is not exactly a new concept, but it is done well here. The contrast between players trying to win within the game with others outside the game trying to figure out and stop the game from reaching its ultimate goal is an interesting dynamic. The ending of the story raised my opinion of the book. The author made some smart choices and it paid off. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book. Highly recommended.