You create the fantasy. They control your mind.
Cassie worked at Imagen, the tech giant behind the cutting-edge virtual reality experience Make-Believe™, and she got to know the product well. Too well.
Now Cassie has been blocked from her escape from the real world, and legally gagged by the company. Her dream job now seems to be part of a larger nightmare, and Imagen is not done with her yet.
With Imagen holding all the cards, and personal and public freedoms at stake, how far will Cassie go to end the deception?
Hi and welcome to my review of A User’s Guide to Make-Believe!
Looking back, I’ve become aware of the fact that I compared quite a lot of books to Black Mirror last year… I tried not to make the same comparison now, but it was literally the first thing that popped into my mind. A User’s Guide to Make-Believe takes life as we know it, life as we’re living it today, and adds a technology that seems highly plausible and too good to be true, rubbing our noses into everything that could go wrong (if that doesn’t sound like a Black Mirror episode, I don’t know what does). The technology in this case is called Make-Believe™. And doesn’t it sound enticing? Being able to escape reality by creating your own little world in your mind? You want to fly like a bird, or on the back of a dragon, be a princess or a warrior, veg out in a hot tub with a bunch of Victoria’s Secret models, or relive quality time with someone dear but lost to you, whatever it is your heart truly desires, you can make it happen, even if it’s only in your imagination and for only a few hours a day.
Working for Imagen, the company responsible for Make-Believe™, Cassie was one of its early users, but when she became addicted, she was sacked. As such, the story starts out with Cassie down on her luck and her money, living in a rowdy, smelly bedsit in a dilapidated low-rise. From there ensues a tale that I found entertaining but that made me feel a little incredulous at times. I’m a huge Blake Crouch fan, I know how to suspend disbelief in these kind of stories, in order to allow the story to take over and I love nothing more than to give the book free reign, have it take me on a wild ride, the wilder the better. Unfortunately, however many things I enjoyed about A User’s Guide to Make-Believe, it never completely grabbed me and I failed to truly connect with Cassie. I loved the premise but I couldn’t help but find the execution a bit lacking. I can’t go into the reasons why without talking about plot lines and giving away too much, so let’s just keep it at that.
What I did love was the way A Guide is constructed. Despite having an obvious main character, Cassie, many chapters are told from the POV of other characters. Quite often a chapter from Cassie’s POV is followed by a chapter from the POV of the character with whom she has just interacted, allowing us to see the same interaction, or its aftermath, from a different perspective. I don’t think I have ever read a book constructed in this manner so it felt unique, and it’s a technique that I really enjoyed.
To my mind, A User’s Guide to Make-Believe is an entertaining enough read with an amazing premise that didn’t fully live up to its potential.
A User’s Guide to Make-Believe is out today on Kindle and will be out in paperback in June.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the free eARC! All opinions are my own.