This is the second installment in the Project Nemesis series. A high tech but easy to understand story about a group of (64) teens who are part of a wider experiment.
First off, I know I usually moan about the recap, and I often skim it, but I really did need something just to remind me what happened in book one. I couldn’t remember who liked who, and who was doing what and how they got there. It came flooding back with a few subtle hints in the first part of the book, but this is an occasion where I’d suggest read a spoiler review of Nemesis to remind yourself of the state of play.
We’re back with Min Wilder, her bff Tack, the boy who shot her Noah, then the power team Ethan and Sarah, among others who are stuck in a virtual reality version of their town. They are just lines of data, in phase two of the project. Every time they die they regenerate randomly at a new location. The big questions are how do they get to stage three, how many times can you regenerate, and what impact does shooting other people have on you.
I found myself thankful that they had to keep reminding themselves that they were only lines of code, because I kept forgetting, the simulated town is so real to them it makes it real to the reader, making you forget that what they feel is real to them but not really real, not outside the programme.
When I stepped away from the book, out of the digital world created for Min and her friends I realised something. This book is really topical. Not just because we are destroying the planet, and it’s the only one we have, or not because Artificial intelligence really amazing, and revolutionary, but because the story focusses on a group of high school kids, many of whom are who are running around their simulated world shooting each other, without a care or thought for what they are doing. Even when they realise you might not have unlimited lives, it doesn’t stop. This is really the part of the story that’s almost secondary although it’s the main course of action. Teenagers with guns are committing murder, suicide and occasionally voluntary murder. Yes they’re not ‘real’ they exist only in the computer programme, making it feel less real, less of an issue; but its there. I really like the book, and I would recommend it to anyone who asked ( or didn’t) but I think it’ll be interesting to see how its received by the wider audience, or if it received the option to be made into a tv show. Im all for that by the way! With the current media focus on 13 reasons why it makes me think, are we moving (backwards?) into an era where stories like this will be championed for being different, daring and brilliant, or will they be relegated to the banned books pile?
Caution, the below contains spoilers because otherwise this
post would be limited to the above only. Its an engrossing tale that you get wrapped up in and because of that I find myself enthusiastically recounting the story, without the ability to remove the spoiler info without taking out all of the words! I did try, really I did. If you don’t want me to ruin the book for you, go and buy it now, and don’t read any more of this!
Min and Tuck stick to what they know, the trailer park. Although Min has elevated status as a Beta in the programme she’s not using it to her advantage like the other 3 Betas. She wants peace not domination. Yet they know there has to be the right amount of them to process to stage three, just not what that amount is. With Noah now an enemy is there anyone Min can trust except Tack? Together they try to reach the Silo to find answers, but when Min gets killed and regenerates she gets captured straight away. There’s only one way to get out of prison. Die again. There’s now the added risk though, The kids have learned that you only have 5 lives, and when you kill you get bonus lives, and power. Is this something they can use to their advantage?
Noah’s not feeling as gung ho about domination as he did, scarred by the memory of shooting Min in phase one, when he comes across her again they form an untrusting alliance. When they meet up with Tack in the Silo the truce doesn’t get any easier, but they’re privy to so much information about the project they don’t realise they’re being attacked. Mins on her last life, so Tack takes one for the team and she has a little spare, Noah goes on the attack and Min is locked in the Silo, with Ethan and Sarah’s team trying to reach her.
Mins a little frustrating because she has so much information available to her but she’s not using it. Sarah takes full advantage and finally Min falls into her trap, but its not the secure trap Sarah imagined.
Whilst war is raging between the teams outside Min find herself once again with the guardian, learning more about the programme, and herself. Sarah is in full control of everything. The environment, animals and people’s lives. While she sits in the safety of the silo she’s making the game more interesting, and probably watched the hunger games one too many times. The Guardian is no longer in control and doesn’t seem bothered by that either. The race is on to survive, win and move on.
I did find myself wishing there was narrative from Sarah, she’s playing an calm, pragmatic evil villain role, and we can’t quite work out her real motives. This is also the problem, if we had a Sarah narrative it would probably spoil the outcome of the story.
Im not going to talk about the end, as I still don’t know how I feel about it. We had revelations throughout the book, which played a part in the final chapters, but I feel disappointed because there was so much potential for a phase three book, where they try to save their classmates while they rebuild society but I feel like Reichs took this option off the table. Did I love this book, Yes, 100%, and I think I just feel disappointed that there won’t be a third. Please someone tell me I’m wrong about that!