What’s It All About?
New York Times bestselling authors Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller imagine a world in which you can leave your body behind and give into your greatest desires in the first book in a new trilogy perfect for fans of Ready Player One and James Dashner’s The Eye of Minds. The future is now. And the future is terrifying.
That’s how Otherworld traps you. It introduces you to sensations you’d never be able to feel in real life. You discover what’s been missing—because it’s taboo or illegal or because you lack the guts to do it for real. And when you find out what’s missing it’s almost impossible to let it go again.
There are no screens. There are no controls. You don’t just see and hear it—you taste, smell, and touch it too. In this new reality, there are no laws to break or rules to obey. You can live your best life. Indulge every desire.
It’s a game so addictive you’ll never want it to end. Until you realize that you’re the one being played. Welcome to Otherworld, where reality is dead. Step into the future. Leave your body behind.
The frightening future that Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller have imagined is not far away. Otherworld asks the question we’ll all soon be asking: if technology can deliver everything we want, how much are we willing to pay?
Otherworld was not the book I thought it was going to be at the outset. Initially a story of a ‘spoiled rich kid’ who is obsessed with playing an elusive online game in the hopes of finding a missing friend, the story quickly became darker and more sinister the deeper you read. Part quest novel, part tech conspiracy theory, there are elements of Otherworld that will make you uneasy as you consider how close they come to our own society, and causing me to wonder where exactly the line might be between fiction and fact.
As with most quest novels, there’s a race against time, but the characters are fighting as much with their base inner natures as they are the bad guys. The struggle to remain focused is countered with the game’s innate ability to discern what human gamers want most and to provide that for them – food, excitement, sex, etc. The book is much darker than you might expect, with some characters experiencing sudden and rather explicit deaths.
One of the strengths of the book lies in the intricate world-building of the Otherworld society. Fans of classic literature will see parallels in the worlds modeled after the seven deadly sins, with each world section being ruled by Elemental “gods” and Beasts, most of whom have spawned “Children” who may or may not be out to kill the players. Once Simon digs deeper, however, he realizes that the Children had not say in their creation, and that they have no choice but to continue to play the game. This virtual world is their home and the gamers who come in for short periods for fun and to commit mayhem are attacking the only place they can live. The greater philosophical questions created by the existence of these characters adds an interesting dimension to the routine quest narrative, and I’m intrigued to see where Segal and Miller will take it into books two and three.
My only frustration with this book came with the character of Kat. We hear her described by so many different characters are vivid and lively and curious, but our encounters with her as a reader are primarily limited to her monotone interactions with Simon and her comatose “locked in” state after the accident. More interesting by far is the elusive Busara, who clearly has many stories left to tell us. Here’s hoping that a revived Kat – or Kat in the game – is an even match for Busara, or I may be changing my ‘ship.
The immersive world of online gaming is familiar territory, especially lately with a film version of Ready Player One on the horizon and Marie Lu’s excellent WarCross released earlier this year. However, if you’ re looking something a little different and a bit more challenging as a way to spend those Christmas gift cards, then Otherworld would be an excellent addition to your shopping basket. Book two – Other Earth – is due out in 2018, with book three due the year after that.
Time for me to put down the headset and explore the real world, before I’m trapped myself,
Disclaimer: Otherworld is an #IndigoStaffPicks for the Month for December, and a copy was received by Indigo Books & Music Inc in exchange for an honest review. Otherworld is out now and is published by Penguin Random House of Canada. It is available for purchase from Indigo and other fine booksellers. ISBN: 9781101939321, 355 pages.