Stranger Things meets Black Mirror and Ready Player One in this unsettling, near-future science fiction standalone.
Something is rotten in the state of the NutriStart Skills Academy.
With the discovery of a human skull on the playing fields, children displaying symptoms of an unfamiliar, grisly virus and a catastrophic malfunction in the site’s security system, the NSA is about to experience a week that no amount of rebranding can conceal. As the school descends into chaos, teacher Tom Rosen goes looking for answers – but when the real, the unreal and the surreal are indistinguishable, the truth can be difficult to recognise.
One pupil, Gabriel Backer, may hold the key to saving the school from destroying itself and its students, except he has already been expelled. Not only that – he has disappeared down the rabbit-hole of “Alpha Omega” – the world’s largest VR role-playing game, filled with violent delights and unbridled debauchery. But the game quickly sours. Gabriel will need to confront the real world he’s been so desperate to escape if he ever wants to leave…
Hi and welcome to my review of Alpha Omega!
I’ve been having a ball with my Twenty Books of Summer challenge, out of the eight books I’ve read / listened to so far, there are only 2 that I considered a bit meh, and unfortunately Alpha Omega was one of them.
The blurb got me hook, line and sinker just by mentioning Black Mirror. I always thought I was not a sci-fi fan at all, but that was before I discovered dark near-future science fiction, a subgenre I can’t seem to get enough of. Heather Child and Blake Crouch had me covered last year, and I’d hoped that I’d be able to add Alpha Omega to my list of awesome Black Mirror-esque novels, but alas…
We were off to a great start though! I felt myself gleefully tumbling down the rabbit hole with various storylines blooming before my very eyes: a boy who finds a skull, a girl who gets an extreme nosebleed and is subsequently shipped off to God-knows-where, an archaeologist who is lamenting how little she’s allowed to work out in the real world, a gamer at the top of his game who is confronted “In World” by a faceless man. I was properly intrigued by the story and its setting in this brave new world, and dying to find out how it would all come together.
And then I got lost. My attention wavered. What was supposed to be a quick read at less than 300 pages seemed to drag. I’m not sure what happened. I won’t deny that I have the attention span of a goldfish at times, so it’s entirely possible that it’s me and not this book, but I got confused, I got turned around, I didn’t know what was what anymore, nor what was the point of anything.
While Alpha Omega raises a few valid points and is quite thought-provoking in some aspects, I would have liked it better if there had been more world-building, and if more of my questions had been answered. Instead I feel like I’ve been left in a bit of a muddle with a frown line edged into my brow.
If a mix of Stranger Things, Black Mirror and Ready Player One is music to your ears, then by all means do not let me stop you. Alpha Omega didn’t quite hit the mark for me, but it may work for you.
Alpha Omega is available now as eBook and will be out in paperback on 21 July. Thanks to Titan Books and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.