Wednesday, July 9, 2014

MindWar by Andrew Klavan - Book Review

From the publisher:
When Rick lost the ability to run, he came one step closer to becoming a hero.
New High Score! New Record Time!

Rick nodded with grim satisfaction. He laid the game controller aside on the sofa and reached for his crutches.

Rick Dial was the best quarterback Putnam Hills High School had ever seen. Unflappable. Unstoppable. Number 12. But when a car accident left him crippled, Rick’s life as he knew it ended. He disavowed his triumphant past. He ignored his girlfriend. He disappeared into his bedroom—and into the glowing video screen.

But Rick’s uncanny gaming skills have attracted attention. Dangerous attention. Government agents have uncovered a potentially devastating cyber-threat: a Russian genius has created a digital reality called the Realm, from which he can enter, control, and disrupt American computer systems . . . from transportation to defense. The agents want Rick, quick-thinking quarterback and gaming master, to enter the Realm and stop the madman—before he sends America into chaos.

Entering the Realm will give Rick what he thought he’d never have again: a body as strong and fast as it was before the accident. But this is no game, there are no extra lives, and what happens to Rick in the Realm happens to Rick’s body in reality.

Even after Rick agrees to help, he can’t shake the sense that he’s being kept in the dark. Why would a government agency act so aggressively? Can anyone inside the Realm be trusted? How many others have entered before him . . . and failed to return?

In the tradition of Ender’s Game and The Matrix, MindWar is a complex thriller about a seemingly ordinary teenager who discovers a hidden gift—a gift that could make him a hero . . . or cost him everything.

Andrew Klavan has become one of the top authors in the Young Adult genre.  His Homelanders series is a hit, particularly with middle school boys. Klavan also does a nice job of dropping faith-based themes into his stories without being heavy-handed about it.  Knowing all this, I really wanted to love this book (and the series as a whole).  Unfortunately, I don't.  However, I don't dislike it either.  In fact, it's really hard to put my finger on how I feel about it, so I'm going to discuss pros and cons.

The Realm - the virtual setting is pretty cool and the potential for awesomeness is tremendous.  MindWar barely scratches the surface of what it is and what can be done.
Rick Dial - the main character, Rick is a flawed hero, an athlete, and a teenager.  He has the potential to be a great character, and to be a favorite of teenage boys.
Flavian and Mariel - two mysterious characters in the Realm, with a lot of room to grow.

Character Development - There is very little character development in MindWar.  In fact, other than Rick, very little is discussed about any of the characters.
The Villains - Kurodar and Reza are arguably the two main villains. There is not much revealed about them, nor is there anything about their motivations for evil-doing.  They really don't come off as bad as they should.
The Writing Style - This book had all the hallmarks of a fast read, but for me it wasn't.  It is not poorly written, but until the climax, I never found myself "having" to read it.

Overall: MindWar is the first book in a trilogy, so I'm willing to give it a bit of a break. It's not Ender's Game or The Matrix (as the book jacket suggests), but the setting and concept are intriguing enough that I'll read the next book, trusting Klavan to delve deeper into the Realm and the characters that inhabit this book.

I received a preview copy of this book from Thomas Nelson and the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review.

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