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This is like a knock-off, horror fan exclusive, dumbed down and uninteresting version of "Ready Player One". The concept and storyline were very similar, but it was missing the heart and nerdy awkwardness that made "Ready Player One" so much fun. I found the characters uninteresting, the plot twists predictable and the ending blase.
Do yourself a favor. Skip this one and just listen to "Ready Player One".
This is a book I had been meaning to read for a while (almost a year) but I'll admit I've gotten very slow with print/digital copies. I was thrilled when it became available as an audio book earlier this month and once I clued up my last listen, I got into this one on a long drive across the province (Newfoundland is big enough you can actually drive for 10+ hours in one direction, I did 7). I have always enjoyed horror books and I was looking forward to this.
This book is a tribute to a lot of other great horror books and movies and I loved that part of it. Before I get too much into what I did love (and other parts I liked a lot) I should deal with the negative. First off this audio production has errors, there are lines repeated at least 6 times in several chapters, sometimes you can hear background noise, part of one chapter is very choppy and another chapter cuts off abruptly. I have to admit that this did take me out of the story at times. I have let the author know about it and hopefully we will have it fixed sometime.
As for the story, I was quickly drawn in. The characters are all likable (and fun) and Bill's bloody past certainly adds a nice element to the story.
So the trivia contest to get in that Bill and Jamie enter, I loved it. I quite enjoy trivia and while there was a few questions I knew, the commitment (and level of knowledge) Joe has to write these questions is impressive. I enjoyed the little nods to other works, pay attention to the first line for nice shout out to the Dark Tower is just one example. A few details of Bill's life could have been left out (his alcoholic mother for example) and perhaps would have been better used by some more development of Bill and Jamie.
Once the contest gets started the book really moves into high gear. I'm a big fan of horror films myself and I thought using virtual reality to let the contestants act of the parts of the killers in epic fights (i.e. Freddy VS Jason), saving victims and the coolest part of the book for me, becoming the killers and butchering the main characters (rather than letting them escape) were excellent ideas. There is one particular scene that is very gory but I thought appropriate and does not go too far for me.
I was surprised a couple of times and I thought the book had a satisfying ending and did a great job with action, suspense, tension and fun horror scenarios.
This book also really explores the dark nature of human behavior (something I have always been fascinated with). I also really loved how the characters get to do stuff in horror movies that I would really love to do. There is another segment to the story that I quite enjoyed but I'll leave it for the reader to find out. You get to a point where you keep waiting for more horror references/scenes/characters to show and they do. That is a lot of fun for people who are very familiar with horror movies (as am I) and I was glad I got to listen to this whole book in mostly one day. I also loved how rather than quoting from real people, every chapter has quotes from characters in horror movies, nice touch! An excellent first showing from Joe, I am happy that the sequel is already available and I will certainly be reading (or listening) to it. I think Joe has a bright future as a horror writer, his love for the genre and other horror writers shines through. I should also add he does a good job working in the importance of family, friendship, self-confident and generally just being happy with your self and still managed to squeeze in the importance of exercise and nutrition (something else I firmly believe in). There is a lot to love here and I must say I enjoyed myself a lot reading this. For any horror fan this is a must read, certainly not for kids (I'd say ages 16+). I give a big recommendation. Honestly this is the best horror book I've read in the past year. While a big horror fan will enjoy this the most, it is also a great introduction to people who aren't maybe so familiar with horror novels. Do yourself a favor and pick this up, you'll be glad you did.