"Suspend your disbelief," said the little voice inside my head.
When I listened to that little voice I was able to enjoy The Ultimate Game, and there"Suspend your disbelief," said the little voice inside my head.
When I listened to that little voice I was able to enjoy The Ultimate Game, and there are elements of this book that truly deserve to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, that little voice wasn't always loud enough to make me suspend my disbelief, and the sound of that voice couldn't drown out the dissonance. Those moments couldn't be overlooked or enjoyed (not, at least, by me).
3 Things That Deserve to be Enjoyed --
The Cliffhanger-- I didn't look into what this book was about before I started reading it, so the cliffhanger at the end of the book, the set up for the sequel, was somewhat unexpected, although I could tell quite early on that another book or two had to be coming if Sean Austin was going to make his story approach completeness. It was good enough that I want to read the sequel.
Two Brothers -- I quite liked Reggie and Jeremy, despite the fact that I bought very little that came out of their mouths. They didn't act their ages, for instance. Still, my like for them existed, and it came down to their love for each other, their loyalty, and the way their emotions rang true. I believed the way they felt about each other and how that translated into the actions they were forced to take, so I cared what happened to them (which is probably the key to the cliffhanger and my desire to see where this story is going).
Echo-7 -- Badass super transformer, Echo-7, is a pretty convincing front-man villain (I suspect someone else is in Echo-7's driver's seat ). He cloaks, he transforms, he tortures, he swallows people whole, he does impersonations, he thinks, he ejects still living boys from his body in plastic bags, he has an army of taser-bots, and he wants to rule the world (perhaps). But wow do you need to roll with his presence (suspend, suspend, suspend) because if you don't you may as well read something else.
Things That Are Hard to Enjoy --
The Militarism -- All boys like guns and violence and military lingo and knives and military philosophies -- and that's okay. More than okay, actually (at least that's what it felt like this book was trying to sell me). It's just fine to fill a book with violence, apparently, and sell that violence to boys ... cause, hey, the US is a peaceful place, the most militarized peaceful place in Earth's history, and militarism's a good thing, a thing that keeps us safe, not something that endangers us, not something we should ever worry about, at least not as much as we should worry about sex and hormones.
The "Token" Girl -- Claire's gamer handle is "Claw," and she's as beautiful as a super-model, and she makes Reggie feel funny in his stomach and then in his heart. Reggie's fourteen. When I was fourteen there was another funny feeling that went along with the stomach and the heart, and that could be found, quite uncontrollably, in my pants. Nothing stirred for Reggie, however. Never even crossed his mind. Couple Reggie's hormonal impossibility with his puppiest of loves, and the fourteen year old he was supposed to be felt about eleven. There was no suspending disbelief here, and it was more frustrating still because Claire was actually an appealing character. She was wasted. Big time.
Violence vs. Hormones -- Couple the glorification of violence for young adults with the chastity of the piece, and the result was an unrealism I was came to despise. The willing ignorance of parents when it comes to their children's hormones, hormones that they once had, makes me despair.
(view spoiler)[Why Wasn't This Whole Thing A Total Recall Scenario? -- If all the gamers had awoken in AAARealityGames hooked up to virtual reality displays or something, and everything they'd experienced had been a BETA test of a new game, this book would have been terrific. But they didn't, and The Ultimate Game was only good. It's a shame. I was hoping for better. (hide spoiler)]*
The Cliffhanger -- I know I said this was one of the things to like about the book, but it has to reside here as well. Sean Austin set up expectations, he teased and hinted at something more, and he failed to deliver. Had he taken more care to avoid the tease, the ending would have been much more satisfying. But I still want to read what's next, so the cliffhanger can't be all bad. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more