Monday, August 31, 2015

Solarversia: The Year-Long Game, by Toby Downton

A novel about a year-long video game?  I have to admit, I was skeptical at first.  Solarversia: The Year-Long Game is, indeed, about a year-long video game, which is played by a hundred million people vying for millions of dollars in prizes.  Toby Downton, who is actually developing a game similar to the one in the novel, launching in 2020, goes way beyond describing video game play in Solarversia.  It's gaming, social commentary, global politics, marketing, celebrity, romance, friendship, family, and one really evil and insane villain.

The heroine of Solarversia, Nova Negrahnu, manages to have a somewhat balanced life outside of her VR goggles, but her studies somehow manage to take second place.  When the game Solarversia is announced, she knows it's made for her.  She's a talented gamer, brilliant with the puzzles with which Solarversia challenges the players, and has time on her hands to play.  I don't think I'll be spoiling anything to let you know she stays in the game a good long time.

To complicate matters of the game, an evil scientist, whose expertise is artificial intelligence, has gathered a following of disciples who share his hope in a future AI being who will bring peace and prosperity to all the earth.  Of course, madmen like him can't accomplish their goals without violence.  When his group's violence touches the game, in VR and reality, including a bomb which kills Nova's best friend, the game changes and Nova begins to play for more than just a cash prize.  She wants revenge.

I am always delighted when a book is much better than I otherwise expected.  Solarversia is a fun read.  The technology is not entirely speculative; I can see everything Downton describes being in place by the time the game launches in 2020.  As cool as it sounds, I don't think I'd be a good candidate for the game.  1. I stink at video games.  2. I'm not that great at some of the types of puzzles and challenges described in Solarversia.  3. I have to hold a full-time job and take care of my family; I'm not sure I'd have time to commit to such a game!  On the other hand, if I could get to the final rounds. . . .

Pick up Solarversia for a preview of a game that promises to change the landscape of gaming.  Downton has a web site promoting the game:  I'll definitely be watching with interest when the game comes out.

Thanks to the author for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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