I received this advanced copy in the form of an e-book, in return I ham posting this honest book review. (This review was originally published on my old blog and Goodreads)
This book is based on the premise that by 2020 a massive online virtual reality video game would exist. Solarversia imagines a virtual world representing our own solar system. The main story of the book tells the story of Nova’s journey through the one year game in Solarversia in 2020. The more you read Solarversia, the more you learn about the virtual reality world.
Nova’s story is the biggest strength of this novel because it adds a human element about the implications of creating a virtual world. Nova has to achieve a balance between playing Solarversia and her life in the real world. Nova wants to become a game designer, which could become a reality if she were to win the 2020 year long game in Solarversia. However, across the year she realises the value of good friends and family support. Nova’s best friends are Burner and Sushi. Both her friends play a key role in this novel, though I do not want to give anything away.
The parallel story which is linked to Nova’s journey is the Holy Order’s quest to create a super artificial intelligence called MAGI. The chapters related to the Holy Order are narrated by Casey. Casey murdered his girlfriend and felt worthless and felt his life was over until he joined the Holy Order. The Holy Order being a fanatical group, commit acts of terrorism to spread fear across the world. AI plays a major role in Solarversia as AI is used in the game to generate puzzles for the 10 million players to solve.
Although prize money is a big motivator for many of the gamers (called Solos) who play Solarversia, many of them have a passion for playing the game and there is the social aspect to Solarversia. Nova chose a place on the player grid to be next to her friend Sushi, so they could be Solarversia sisters. Not only is this book well plotted, it also tries the place virtual reality in a more realistic setting. The world today is dominated by technology and social media. For better or worse the world is well connected in cyberspace. Solarversia is what one would could the next step, a visual interactive space where people can communicate with each other and play games with each other.
My opinion on the Holy Order storyline is that it was well thought out and necessary to place this book in a real life context. Cyber warfare is a modern day reality with many systems getting hacked, including online game networks. Moreover, this novel is the first book by Toby Downton, and it was the first year long game, so there is room for a sequel.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who has read Ready Player One or other similar novels. The main character Nova is likable and her being British is a nice touch as many big Science Fiction novels are written by American authors and set in the USA, so this is a nice change. There is a small romance element to this novel, but it is not overbearing or unrealistic.
Rating: 5/5 Stars