Video game battles in virtual reality with the gamers acting as their avatars isn’t a far-fetched concept anymore, but in the year 2054 in Holly Jennings’ Arena, this concept is a nationally sponsored sport.
Kali Ling quickly moved from the amateur virtual gaming leagues to the pros and at just 20 years old, she’s the first female to captain a RAGE tournament team. When one of her teammates overdoses on drugs, her team has to quickly find a new member to keep them from losing the tournament after their surprising loss to InvictUS, a team who had kept rather quiet until brutally beating Kali’s team, Defiance, and placing them in the loser’s bracket of the finals. Fighting to win the tournament, but also to retain a hold on what’s real versus what’s virtual reality, Kali both leads and depends on her team as she comes to terms with what’s happened and where she wants to go.
The concept of the narrative was something that I enjoyed as I am a fan of watching Let’s Plays and despite not actually playing games, I’m fairly well-versed in video games. The story reminded me of Hunger Games with elements of Ender’s Game, as it provides entertainment for some while working as part of a larger corporate or governmental regime (some have likened it to the Divergent series, but *gasp* I haven’t read it so can’t say). While I’m not exactly thrilled at the lack of progress in the gender and race aspect to society in 40 years time, it does make it easier to resonate with contemporary audiences due to its familiarity–which is another sticking point here for me: who exactly is the audience? It seems a bit young to new adult-ish but also feels quite a bit younger, like middle grade-ish. I wasn’t entirely sold on the story at the beginning, but as it progressed and I suspended my disbelief/outrage, I was eager to see how the story would conclude.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.