MetaWars: The Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton

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MetaWars: The Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton

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Buy MetaWars: The Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Forgive the slightly derivative elements to this adventure, and let the action and energy sink in - it provides a powerfully creative ride.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: August 2012
Publisher: Orchard
ISBN: 9781408314593

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Welcome to the world of Web 4.0 - a totally immersive world of virtual reality, jacked into your spine, and the perfect place to escape, live and work - as opposed to the near-Apocalyptic conditions on Earth, with global warming, over-population and anarchic ruin everywhere. Jonah uses the Metasphere to go to school by day, and his rollerskates to try and win race prize purses by night. But the world is about to turn upside down for him. For the inventor of Web 4.0, who alone can control and profit from this other reality, is out of prison, and the 'terrorists' against him are stepping up their activities too. Secrets in both worlds will conspire to drag Jonah in, but in an existence where you can be killed virtually or IRL and they both have the same result, the danger he faces is only going to mount up...

This is one of those most pleasing finds in the tween market, a book that looked a little hackneyed, a touch unpromising, and bit compromised by borrowing heavily from elsewhere, and turned out to be a much better proposition. Jonah has ambitions to fly, which immediately put me in mind of Scott Westerfeld and the fact that so many of his characters find the same thrill in moving quickly and easily. Whoever is behind the keyboard, it certainly gives a kinetic energy to the heroes and heroines and their movements, and despite any misgivings, this is well on its way to being on a par with the Australian author's best.

I saw the VR world here as something like that in this book, with the inherent freedom to do what you want, while your body is more or less in comatose storage - and again, flight is common. But this world is much closer to home - here there are shops, catering, and graveyards - nothing like the Utopian design of other books' future paradises.

In the end, happily, this book turned out to be its own entity. You have to forgive it the problems it has in setting up the danger of being detected in the Metasphere, then ignoring that possibility from then on. But the action - in a compelling, very kinetic and cinematic style that easily engages - is great in both worlds. This side there are old-fashioned dog-fights, car chases and espionage elements, in the other world - well, some things are just too good to be revealed. The whole sci-fi factor of the crossing between the two is very well done, and this future world - in an unspecified year - is portrayed in a great way.

What's also appealing is the balance of characters. Adults are not just annoyances to Jonah, nor remain one side of the friend-or-foe divide. His family history comes to the story in very, very clever ways. Nor does the appearance of some children turn this into a tale of indestructible kids saving the world. In fact, a lot of this shows a lot of thought and work has gone into creating a new series that must have legs. When it allows any time for thinking at all in the pell-mell rush of action, you just can't tell how much of the rest of the plot or the other books you can safely predict - and the tiny teaser for book two seems to show a very different first sequel than that you might have foreseen.

With the highest quality of drama here, and a global reach that would make for a fine movie (bar the bizarre avatars featured at times in the world of the Metasphere), this is a series that lads, and lasses with an eye for great action and clever narrative, should eagerly jump on board with. Heck, adults can even see the whole plot as a metaphor for Facebook gazumping Myspace! I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For other virtual worlds and how to demolish them, The Reality Bug (Pendragon) by D J MacHale just about works as a stand-alone book for the same audience. For teens, Gamerunner by B R Collins keeps the cyber-world more firmly as a game than an existence.

Buy MetaWars: The Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy MetaWars: The Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton at Amazon.co.uk


Buy MetaWars: The Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy MetaWars: The Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton at Amazon.com.

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