I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
- my rating: 2.5 stars
- published by: Troubador Publishing
- genres: YA, sci-fi
- diverse: no
In Extropia: Mind Game, we follow our MC Edward, who’s father and brother have become trapped inside a virtual world they created called Extropia. Edward has always believed his parents died on the night they catastrophically tried to launch Extropia – so when he finds out this isn’t the case, and his family are trapped rather then dead, he decides to enter the Vitual World created by his brother and Dad in order to rescue them.
I was really excited to start this, I’ve traditionally enjoyed books set in Vitual Worlds or involving that sort of premise so I truly thought I’d really enjoy this. I don’t think this book is bad by any means, and judging from other reviews it may be a bit of a case of it’s me not you. For me the elements of this book just didn’t really come together in a satisfying way.
To start with the positives
as expected I really enjoyed the setting and opening sequences of this book. The majority of this book is set in Extropia and I really liked that setting. The world was quite vast, but it was explained and described quite well and I liked the elements of the design and how they related to Edwards personal family history. I thought that was a super sweet touch and something kind of realistic? Everyone takes a little inspiration from their own lives. Plus it was sweet for Edward to see all the things he knew were from his actual life.
I also really liked the plot that came along with the Extropia and some of the consequences of creating it – the characters having emotions and feelings and anger that their suffering has been cultivated as entertainment. I liked that the characters undermined and subverted the roles they were supposed to fill. I also liked the backstory of the world, it’s complication and plot and how Edward and the other characters fit into that.
Female representation a massive let down
For me where this really fell down was the female representation and romance elements. First off, there is only one female character in this whole book .. none of the characters/people they meet in Extropia are women? There are so many male characters from both inside of and outside of Extropia and only one female and that for me was pretty disappointing.
Elizabeth isn’t the worst female character ever but she’s not particularly inspiring either. I appreciated that she wasn’t completely helpless and was part of the action scenes, and I really liked her big role at the end. But I was really urggh about plot sections in which Elizabeth had to be rescued – it’s 2017 and I am so over the damsel in distress situation. I also just think she existed without much agency, she barely has any backstory or story outside of helping Edward, and to me it really just felt like the was functioning as a love interest and not with any agency as a woman or female character.
And speaking of the romance, I personally found it really unnecessary and undeveloped. It really just like out of nowhere Edward was like — ha I’m into Elizabeth. It felt to me like such a “he was a boy, she was a girl” plot. Like, just because they’re a girl and a boy they obviously have to get together. I just thought the romance was really tacked on at the end and didn’t progress the story or the characters development arcs but it was just sort of there and it didn’t do anything for me. Fortunately it wasn’t a book overwhelmingly coated in romance so it wasn’t that awful but I still thought it let this story down alot. I also thought Elizabeth and Edward together felt a little incongruent because I was under this assumption she was a bit older then him – he’s in school but she works for a government agency?
The final element for me which really didn’t work was the characterisation. I felt like the characters were really underdeveloped and I wasn’t particularly invested in any of them. The characters aren’t completely flat by any means but they didn’t feel rich or lifelike to me. I wish the side characters and Elizabeth had been more developed and even the villains too. The central villain could have been a really sympathetic villain but his monologue was a little too “stock villain” for me to really see him as anything other then a caricature.
SOME OTHER NOTES
None of these thoughts are really developed enough to have a paragraph so the rest is just going in dot points.
– The magic element of this book was a little confusing to me. Edward is a mage but after a little experimentation entirely abandons that? I’m not sure if that will play into the sequels but it felt like a bit of an incomplete plot point to me.
– There are soo many characters all with some pretty “high fantasy” type names so you definitely have to be on your toes to remember who is who. I got a little confused between who is who at some points.
– I liked the sprinkling of influences in the game. Skyrim, Lord of the Rings, even a little Harry Potter reference.
– For me, this felt like it was going past so slowly, which I don’t really understand because every chapter something new is happening and the plot is moving along. I don’t know why I found myself so unmotivated to pick it up and read. What I’m saying is, I’m sure other people would find this really exciting because there isn’t any particular reason it shouldn’t be. Maybe it was just because I’m a character driven reader.
– Okay I was actually genuinely shook by one of the plot twists (view spoiler)
– I liked the stuff about the AI / characters having feelings and the kind of ethics discussions behind what they’d created. I liked that the upsides of Extropia were contrasted with it’s downsides and that was probably the most engaging and interesting aspect of the plot to me.
IN CONCLUSION For me this was just an average read, I didn’t hate it but I wasn’t particularly invested or moved by it either. If you’re a fan of virtual reality plots though, you should consider picking it up. It gives me Ready Player One vibes but set in Middle Earth. The fun setting, for me, didn’t make up for the lacking characterisation and annoying romance elements but there were some good plot twists and interesting discussions about artificial gaming and the ethics behind creating it which I liked.