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The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and the more hacking skills you have, the more fun it is. Why bother following the rules when it’s so easy to break them? But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And one gamer has been doing exactly that, with murderous results. .
The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. And they’ve been watching Michael. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid, to the back alleys and corners of the system human eyes have never seen—and it’s possible that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.
Series: The Mortality Doctrine (Book 1)
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (July 22, 2014)
Page Count: 336 pages
I have been a long time fan of James Dashner. He got me into science fiction with his Maze Runner series (reviews below), so he holds a special place in my heart. I even got to meet him last December, which was amazing! While at the signing, I purchased the first two books of his newest series, the Mortality Doctrine. Now I've finally gotten the chance to read them!
The Plot: The plot is like a sci-fi hero quest. Michael, Bryce, and Sarah travel through different games seeking to find the mysterious Mortality Doctrine. The story is full of mystery and figuring out the wiles of different games. It has shades of the Maze Runner, but very different since it's in a virtual reality world that reminds me of Sword Art Online although SAO is more elegant than this type of VR. The end has a mammoth twist that had me reeling. James Dashner's writing style has definitely improved since the Maze Runner series. It's much smoother.
The Characters: Michael is a good main character. He is determined and brave, but he's also human like Dashner likes to make his characters. He isn't afraid to make his characters me so scared that they cry or don't act cool. Bryson and Sarah are great side characters. They work well with Michael and both give some much needed comic relief in the midst of this gritty story.
The cast is mostly focused on those three. There are a few characters like Tanya or Agent Weber that are mentioned, but none have a large part. Kaine is a mysterious cyber terrorist villain, and I can't say too much about him without spoiling him.
The Setting: The setting is primarily in the VirtNet which is a virtual reality internet. All of the VR games are connected by this web and can be hacked to an extent, which Michael, Bryson, and Sarah do frequently to help them overcome the trials in the game. There's a wide variety of games though the primary games the characters travel to are Lifeblood Deep, Devils of Destruction, and the Hallowed Ravine. Each of these games are quite gritty and the players feel everything like they would in real life, including pain, hunger, and fatigue. The games are entered using a Coffin that connects to your central nervous system with needles and wires.
Devils of Destruction is a brutal game, but it's set in Greenland when potentially in the future there is a war where gold was discovered on that forsaken continent, so countries fought over rights to mine. I found that one the most interesting.
Epic Things: The KillSims were scary but epic. They're these wolf-like creatures that can destroy a character both in the game and real life by giving them brain damage.
The Theme: Sacrifice is a strong theme in the book. Michael and Sarah especially make huge sacrifices. Facing fears is another big one. I love the determination Michael and his friends have.
Content Cautions: Though this is a virtual reality game all of the gore is very realistic, so it's basically like real life. There's some gore with crazy soldiers attacking Michael and his gang. The most disturbing sequence is in the first chapter when a character named Tanya rips out her "core" from her chest then commits suicide by jumping off a bridge. There are only three usages of d*** that I counted. They may have used hell, but I'm not sure.
What We Can Take Away For Our Writing:
1.) Reminding the Readers that the World Isn't Real - The biggest thing I can point out in this book is how well Dashner wrote the book to keep reminding you that this is a virtual reality game without it seeming overplayed. Michael is a very analytical character and he's figuring out ways to bend the game and talking about how the game effects him. This keeps you grounded that this is a game and it's not real.
How this can be applied to writing: Have you ever thought of writing a book set in a virtual reality or dream world or hallucination? Having the characters mention that the world isn't real whether it be subtly like mentioning how the world works or talking about how this world feels different than the other can help ground the readers in this fake world within a real world. Trippy ...
Conclusion: I definitely enjoyed this book. All of it is worth it for the awesome twist at the end. I'm not going to spoil it. You just have to read it! Four stars!
James Dashner is the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series that includes The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and The Kill Order. He has also written The Eye of Minds (book one in the Mortality Doctrine series), the 13th Reality series, and two books in The Infinity Ring series: A Mutiny in Time and The Iron Empire.
Dashner was born and raised in Georgia but now lives and writes in the Rocky Mountains. To learn more about James and his books, visit JamesDashner.com, follow @jamesdashner on Twitter, or find dashnerjames on Instagram.
Do you want a review of the other books in the series? Check out my reviews of the Maze Runner, the Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure!
If you enjoyed this review, you can find more over on the Book Reviews tab of click the link. :)
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