Gamerunner by B R Collins
|Gamerunner by B R Collins|
|Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam|
|Summary: Raw and fast-paced, this dystopian novel has a lot of action, enhanced by the author's vivid, fluid writing style. However, a lack of well-rounded characters and limited development of setting and background hold the story back a little.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: July 2011|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing|
|External links: Author's website|
The Maze is more than just a role-playing game. Rick is one of the many who immerse themselves entirely in the game, and essentially live their life in its virtual reality. He is one of the lucky ones. Thanks to the fact that his guardian, Daed, is the mind behind the Maze and is employed by the powerful and merciless firm Crater, Rick has lived a protected life, one spent inside the thick walls of the multi-storeyed headquarters of Crater. He has never had to go outside and live a life of extreme poverty under the constant threat of gangs or, even worse, the lethal acid rain that is a part of the intensely polluted atmosphere.
The environmental aspect of the dystopian setting is not the focal point of the story, rather the indirect root of the way in which society has developed. With the environment having been rendered inhospitable, RPGs suddenly become much more significant. The Maze is much more than a typical videogame; it is an immersive experience, with the system connected directly to the mind of the person playing on it. It has become so important that many, including Rick, have sidelined the real world in favour of it. However, a seemingly insubstantial mistake by Rick leads to the rapid collapse of his sheltered naïve lifestyle, as he begins to uncover the chilling truth behind the purpose of the Maze and the harsh reality of the nature of his and Daed's role in Crater. As Rick rapidly begins to realise the inherent flaws in the life that he was previously content with, he is left with a difficult decision to make: whether to remain a part of the sinister Crater and become a part of the newest version of their virtual world, or to break free and brave the harsh world outside the building he has spent virtually – no pun intended – his whole life in.
The story is well written, but I felt that there was a lack of something to lighten the mood at times. There is very little hope throughout the story and human relationships and interactions feel stunted and negative. Rick's relationship with Daed is odd; although Daed does appear to be obsessed with keeping Rick safe, he doesn't mind letting Rick suffer in the process, and there seems to be no real compassion between the pair. In fact, the one character who does show a bit of compassion meets an untimely end halfway through the book.
The narrative voice is sharp, intense and personal, which means that even though Rick is not a particularly charismatic or distinct protagonist, I didn't find it hard to become immersed in his plight. However, it was hard to really empathise with any of the characters, and none of them showed real depth or development. A lot is left ambiguous, and although I found this frustrating during the first half of the book, where the lack of exposition made it difficult to keep track, it felt more like a strength at the end of the story, reinforcing the core storyline and the personal scale of the story. Nonetheless, the story seems to lack impetus and direction in its plot at times, and I was left feeling more depressed than satisfied at the climax, which felt symbolic but could've done with a better build-up and background story to enhance its impact.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
There are a lot of excellent dystopian novels available for teens, and those who enjoyed Gamerunner should definitely check out The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which sustains a similar intensity. The Returners, by the excellent Gemma Malley, is a fascinating exploration of free will versus determination, told through the voice of a similarly conflicted protagonist. If you are looking for a future-set sci-fi novel which is less of a dystopia and more of an adventure story, perhaps Chronosphere: Time Out of Time by Alex Woolf might appeal.
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