Stars: 2 out of 5
This book was a chore to read, and I almost DNFed it at 32% when things were making to sense at all and I was getting very annoyed with the narrative. I powered through it and finished this book, but I’m not sure I made the right choice. It had been a long and often frustrating slog to get through all 700+ pages of this.
The concept itself is really interesting. I mean, I love Inception. I still think it’s one of the best movies ever made. So I was really excited to read something similar. Unfortunately, this concept is a lot harder to bring to life on a written page than it is on the silver screen. Where in a movie you could add an element of crazy and reality not making sense in small visual queues, on a page it just makes for a very confusing and frustrating narrative.
It doesn’t help that this confusion persists for the first 40% of the book. This is way too long to leave the reader wondering what the heck is going on. I have seen that a lot of readers DNFed this book around 30-35% in, and I totally understand why. Like I said, I almost did the same.
Once the protagonist emerges out of the simulation within a simulation he’s been in for the first half of the book, things start to pick up steam and make slightly more sense, but even then, the action drags. Unnecessarily, in my opinion. I found that the final confrontation took too much time as well. I kept turning the pages and wishing for things to finally be over, yet the conflict still dragged and dragged. When I finally reached the last page, my thought was “thank God, it’s done,” instead of “wow, that was good book.” That should tell you something about how invested I was(n’t) in this story.
I got tired of the simulation within simulation within another simulation that was constantly going on. I also got tired of the double- triple- and quadruple-crossing going on in this book. It made my brain hurt.
I might have enjoyed the twists and turns better if I cared about the characters, but as it stands, all of them are horrible human beings. Especially Mason. He is awful in the beginning of the book when he is in the simulation, and he doesn’t get much better once he emerges into the real world. In fact, all the characters do is fight with each other, bicker and hurt each other. There isn’t a single healthy relationship to be found. They never talk about their issues or try to resolve them. They just lash out and make things worse. The relationship between Mason and Carter is especially toxic, and nothing is done about it.
To be honest, by the end of the book I was cheering Mason on when he held the logic bomb, because I would have actually been happy with an “and everybody died” ending for this group of wonderful human beings. As it stands, the ending is rather unsatisfying, because I don’t think our protagonist learned the most important lesson he had to learn – that hiding from his issues isn’t a solution.
I am still giving this book 2 stars, because it is well-written, and the concept is amazing. With more likeable characters you could root for, this would have been a very good story.
PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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