It's February 29, 2020, and Nova Negrahnu cannot wait to start playing Solarversia, a year-long game based in a virtual world that's modeled on the real-world solar system. Given three lives, three vehicles, and told to master the Science of Solarversia to stand a chance of winning, players compete against 100 million people for the £10m grand prize and a place in the history books.
Solarversia starts three months before Nova's A-levels, the life-changing exams that could see her win a place at Nottingham, the university that Charlie attends, the second-year student she falls for on an open-day visit. As she strains to balance her addiction to the game with her mounting schoolwork, Nova's world is unexpectedly turned upside down when the Holy Order, a mysterious cult-like organization sets its sights on the game and Spiralwerks, its creator.
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Such an Inventive Story and Idea!
Solarversia is one of those books that really gets the reader interested in the technology used by the characters and the world in which it is all based. The virtual reality (VR) concepts introduced here - along with the year-long game - is something that appealed to me as an engineer and as a gamer. I want this to exist now!
Nova Negrahnu is my favorite character by far. I love that most of the story is told from her point of view and that we get to experience her triumphs and failures so intimately. She is a likeable character, even when she is dealing with some teenage/young-adult angst. It's fairly easy to relate to her.
The Krazy Karting final is one of my favorite scenes. It is one of the places we as the reader really get to see Nova shine in the gameworld, and the scene keeps you well-immersed throughout its entirety.
There is a specific moment when Nova visits her friend Sushi that moves me. I don't want to say much more, as it would spoil one of the main subplots. I think the reader/listener will know what scene I'm referring to when it is reached. Overall, I really like the relationship between the two girls; it is one of the most organic relationships in the novel.
One thing that disappointed me while listening to Solarversia (I previously read the physical book) was some of the narration. Occasionally there aren't long enough breaks within the chapter to help the listener distinguish when a character POV change occurs (such as switching between Nova, the Holy Order, and Artie). If I hadn't read the book, I would have been a little more lost, but even so, it still took me several seconds to realize we were in a different setting. Voice changes for each character are also minor in my opinion. For the most part I could tell everyone apart, but I had moments when I didn't know who was speaking. All this detracted some from the performance aspect, but overall it is well put-together. In a perfect/ideal world, I would have liked to have two narrators: a female for Nova, Sushi, and her mother, and a male for the other characters.
- L. Buholtz "Physicist pretending to be an engineer."
A good try, though it could be restructured
I liked how it very much felt like everything was taking place within English culture. (Please forgive me if I used the wrong term, English vs British).
It took a really long time for me to get hooked. It spent too much time setting up the environment of the game and the 'high school' mindset of the main character.
The narrator did a good job, though there were moments where he did read a little too fast and became a little difficult to understand. To be fair, this may be my American ear not interpreting the English accent properly.
I suppose it's possible that this could be made into a mini-series, but it would need to introduce The Holy Order earlier, meaning establish them as a morally ambiguous organization. I didn't quite get the feel that it was a terrorist organization until about the third chapter dedicated to their side of the story.
The author contacted me directly on twitter to read/listen to this story. Being an amateur author myself, I felt a compulsion to oblige. So I spent a credit on this. It took me about a week and a half to get through it (life has a tendency to get in the way) and there were many moments where I felt like I was kind of slogging through nuance and minutia and I really wanted to see more plot. Toby did a fine job conveying the massive feeling of the game and the seemingly endless number of games, but with how complicated this whole year-long-game was, it felt like ten million pounds wouldn't really be enough. That thought gets tempered with the numerous mini-contests that go on throughout and how they each have their own varying prizes so, that kind of helps offset it.
I have to admit that for much of the book, I wasn't terribly fond of the protagonist, mainly because I have a low tolerance for people that act in similar fashion to our heroine. That and a slow moving plot early on kept me from really falling in love with this story. Toby reached out to me after I had tweeted about listening to "Ready Player One" for yet another time and how much I enjoyed it, and I can see why. There are many parallels to be drawn between the two novels, but really only on a superficial level (which is how it should be, otherwise Solarversia might seem like a clone of Ready Player One which would not be good). I really wanted to like this book but I was only kind of "meh" about it. If the book had seen a restructuring, maybe I'd feel better about it, but then I'm no professional author or publisher so please take my word with a grain of salt.
I'm glad to have listened to it, but I don't think I'll be listening to it again anytime soon.