Level Zero (The NextWorld, #1)
Jaron Lee Knuth

When the never-ending wars, pollution, and overpopulation of the near future have caused the outdoors to become uninhabitable, the government is forced to create a new world, a virtual existence that allows civilization to continue. Shopping malls, schools, concert venues, and religious gathering places all exist in the infinite confines of this new reality, yet the most popular domain for most teenagers is the one that houses the endless array of digital games.

When the sequel to a popular title is released to the public for a special beta test, a group of players eagerly log in to try out the new experience. What seems like harmless violence quickly turns all too consequential when the players realize the game’s biggest error: They can’t log out. Forced to battle their way through an endless army of monsters programmed to kill their avatars, the players must fight against the clock and find a way out of the game before the real world catches up to them.

Level Zero (The NextWorld, #1) book cover

This was brilliant. Frustratingly, my ereader trashed my highlights so I can’t point out the most epic bits in as much detail as I’d like, but that just means I have to ramble on a little more aimlessly than usual.

The dragon, of course, that was such a rush, and the way that battle ends was both poignant and very meaningful. I did feel that the ending of the book came a little suddenly, but the revelation before the last bit of the mission was very neatly done. I suspected, but I suspected everyone equally, everyone had something to hide (the hacker, the lagger, there was enough floating around) that my suspicions never cemented until we see exactly what is revealed (I’m trying not to give anything away, honest).

This book firmly plants itself up there with quality works like Ready Player One and Erebos, it packs an empathic punch but doesn’t dive so deep your average teen won’t want to explore and the combat and action scenes are just there, in glorious vivid detail, ready to be picked up and splashed onto ‘movie theater’ screens everywhere. What a book. I must read more.

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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