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Jaron Lee Knuth was born in western Wisconsin in 1978. Suffering from multiple illnesses as a young child, he was forced to find an escape from his bedridden existence through the storytelling of any media he could find. Science fiction and fantasy novels, television programs, films, video games, and comic books all provided him with infinite worlds for his imagination to explore. Now he spends his days creating stories and worlds in the hope that others might find somewhere to escape as well.
He would love to reply to any questions or comments you may have for him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out his news and updates at facebook.com/jaronleeknuth or follow @jaronleeknuth on Twitter.
This is a hopeful, yet ambiguous, vision embedded within a dystopian conception of the future, with some cautionary-tale leavening for good measure. It qualifies as SF, but it's refreshingly un-cliched; indeed, it focuses where good fiction always should: on the human heart.
Mr. Knuth bills "Level Zero" as for young adults, but this old codger enjoyed it immensely. It asks questions about the nature of reality, and about how much of our "classical" reality we'd be willing to give up for a simulation that pleases us better. It also asks whether we're ready for the long foretold (but painfully slow in actually arriving) emergence of artificial intelligences that possess the gamut of human capacities -- including our ability to love.
The aspects of "Level Zero" that do aim at a YA audience would be: -- The use of a digital game as a simulated universe and field of action; -- The selection of teenagers as the principal characters; ...yet in neither case does that make the story unpalatable to an older reader.
The plot is fresh and ingenious, without demanding excessive suspension-of-disbelief. The characterizations struck me as spot-on. The metamorphosis of Arkade from a borderline-sociopath antisocial to someone capable of loving was handled exceptionally well. The overall theme -- that anything with human-scale intelligence will ultimately demand to be valued as such, and to be free -- is as important as anything SF is being written about today.
If only all young-adult fiction were this well executed, and aimed this worthily. Highly recommended!
Mr. Knuth's latest offering 'Level Zero' is a tight, well-written novel, which could be described as a coming of age story retold for the era of technology. As I am someone who grew up as video games and related technologies have become more 'real' and much more time consuming, I could instantly relate to the story, background, and characters.
Within Huxley's "Brave New World" you have Soma as the drug that keeps the population compliant, within "Level Zero" the virtual 'NextWorld' would be the analogue. The main character uses the network to escape and cope with the 'real' (and bleak) world. While exploring NextWorld with the protagonist Arkade and other characters in the book, the reader begins to understand just how it would be possible to want to live in a world without the inherent problems of actual interaction in the 'real world'. As the book progresses the game world becomes an interactive and exciting backdrop for a study in how a group can interact, and how individuals can grow. A question the book poses, and does a good job discussing, is what makes a persons world real? Is it what we perceive, or what we are, or what we make of it?
The book progresses quickly, while the main characters are fleshed out nicely as they work their way through the world. Being a gamer (albeit older) myself, I could relate to detail of the gaming world, along with the imagery and descriptions used to make 'NextWorld' seem a logical step in the progression of technology.
As stated above, while this book is technically aimed at Young Adults, I had no problem enjoying and being immersed in the story. It can easily be enjoyed by any age group, as just a great SF/Fantasy story. I highly recommend this book for anyone that has played MMORPG's or anything similar, along with anyone that just likes a great, fun SF story!
I personally really enjoyed this this book! I found the futuristic world very creative and interesting, but then again I haven't read many books focused on that type of future. There were a few minor details I do feel like I've seen before in movies, but they didn't play a big role in the story at all. I like how the author incorporated everyone's personal life stories in the book , and how he weaved their lives into the story itself throughout the book. The ending was satisfying and left me in high spirits, so there's no need to be worried about the novel being ruined.
I am a female fourteen-year-old, and I enjoyed this. I say a person of any gender would find this enjoyable, and those aged from eleven to -- let's say -- maybe seventeen or so could read this pleasantly.
For anyone whom has played MMORPGs or First-Person-Shooter games; they're in for a real treat. The story was amazing, the characters were amazing, the Sci-Fi world was amazing including the fictional technology, everything was just amazing! Gamers will appreciate the non-stop action, programmers and computer nerds will appreciate the technology and attention to detail and everyone else will appreciate how compelling and heartfelt the story is. I absolutely loved this from the very beginning and could nto put it down. And for all your fellow computer nerds; the chapter titles are in binary!
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Other reviewers have stated it already: good story, good character development and less about gaming and more about people in a distopian future. The fact that death is an actual real risk, certainly adds more tension then in some other books set in a game that I have read. You certainly don't have to be a game enthiasiast to like the book. The game is simple and the book pays little attention to its mechanics beyond that you level and buy better equipment to become more powerful. Good ending, no cliffhangers.
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