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Otherworld Hardcover – October 31, 2017
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Audio CD, Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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“Full of high stakes, thrillers, and fantastic twists and turns, fans of Ready Player One are sure to love this addictive read.”—Buzzfeed.com
“A potent commentary on how much we’re willing to give up to the lure of technology.” —EW.com
"A fantastic journey from start to finish, and will keep your attention, long after you’ve put the book down."—Hypable.com
“An engaging VR cautionary tale.” —The A.V. Club
"Authors Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller keep the action nonstop while they convincingly ratchet up the tension…[in] the high-stakes gaming and intrigue of [Otherworld.]”—Shelf Awareness
"[A] fast-paced adventure."—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Jason Segel is an actor, a writer, and an author. Segel wrote and starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and co-wrote Disney’s The Muppets, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Segel’s film credits include The End of the Tour; I Love You, Man; Jeff Who Lives at Home; Knocked Up; and The Five-Year Engagement. On television, Segel starred on How I Met Your Mother as well as Freaks and Geeks. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Nightmares! series—Nightmares!; Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic; Nightmares! The Lost Lullaby; and Everything You Need to Know About NIGHTMARES! and How to Defeat Them. Otherworld is his first novel for young adults. Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonSegel.
Kirsten Miller lives and writes in New York City. She is the author of the acclaimed Kiki Strike books, the New York Times bestseller The Eternal Ones, and How to Lead a Life of Crime. Otherworld is the fifth novel Kirsten has written with Jason Segel. You can visit her at kirstenmillerbooks.com or follow @bankstirregular on Twitter.
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Otherworld is a virtual reality game that’s expansive and hyper-realistic. At the opening of the book, current technology includes visors, gloves and VR haptic gear…pretty standard concept. The game is in a very exclusive early release phase with gear and access costing hundreds or thousands of dollars. This high entry point and seemingly limited release did have me a little confused later in the book as our characters encounter a ton of other player characters, but I guess there are plenty of hard core gamers who will shell out high costs for something like this.
The book focuses on the main character of Simon. He’s the high school son of ultra-rich parents who are mostly uninvolved with his life except as it comes to scolding him for misbehaving. Through his childhood and early he made a secret friendship with a girl named Kat. Due to the interference of their parents and trouble that got Simon kicked out of multiple schools, Kat is no longer associating with Simon at all and her stepfather has threatened legal action if he finds Simon around. Naturally this doesn’t stop a headstrong teenage boy and he keeps trying to figure out why Kat is being so standoffish towards him.
After a few days there’s a major accident that leaves numerous students dead and others, including Kat, in a coma. Specialists arrive from the Company that created Otherworld and they invite the comatose Kat to participate in a special beta of a Disk. The disk takes comatose patients into a virtual world where they can have a form of life while waiting for their body to heal in the real world. Simon naturally suspects a conspiracy and worries that Kat is in danger. Developing some new alliances, Simon decides to go into the virtual world to save her.
The book balances its time between the real world and the game world, often having our characters being ripped from one to another in a jarring way. This keeps the characters and the readers off balance and unsure of what will happen next.
The game world as a plot concept is interesting but I wasn’t quite as impressed by the representation of the various game “realms” themselves. Without spoiling too much, the main plot concept is that the software characters are self-aware and feel threatened by the human players. Simon is in the game trying to find Kat and help her escape back to reality. His mission grows over time but most of it involves a long journey from one game realm to another. The individual game realms are both interesting and superficial. There are some elements that I found very interesting and unique and which served as a thoughtful commentary on society in general.
At the same time, the various realms felt flat to me. We were told how much the players were in awe of the grandiose realism of the virtual world. There were some interesting descriptions of clouds and animals and the way the software portrayed the randomness of reality rather than predictable patterns. I think part of my problem was that I felt like many of the game world features felt a little too cliché.
As Simon continues on his quest to find Kat, he uncovers more and more secrets both within the game world and during his time back in the real world. Real life dangers threaten Simon and Kat both in the game and in the real world. Interesting plot twists leave the characters (and readers) unsure exactly where the conspiracy will lead. While I found the quest within the game world a bit stereotypical, I found the conspiracy and the overarching plot to be intriguing and compelling.
Aside from Kat and Simon, the characters weren’t exceptionally deep. There were a couple of character tropes although the authors did try to add in a few surprises here and there to break the mold.
Simon is written as an impulsive, belligerent, headstrong teenager. He admits to himself that he’s got a crush on Kat and that love is what drives his actions. We’re given some fun backstory information about Simon and his family. There’s also a strange amount of focus on his physical appearance, particularly his large nose that he apparently inherited from his grandfather…just one of those quirks to make him feel more real. We get into Simon’s head and see his fears and anxiety. He’s determined to save Kat but he’s in turmoil about how to do it and whether or not he actually can do it. We don’t get much insight into Kat’s character. She mostly seems like the trope of a confident, brave, smart heroine that shouldn’t need rescuing. And yet, here comes Simon to save her. It’s kind of a weird balance but one that we often find in stories like this.
As a parental note, if this was to receive a movie rating, it would get an R-rating. Not for any overly graphic violence (there are some battle sequences) or sex scenes (there are implications that Otherworld has brothels but the most intimacy are a few kisses). The rating would come strictly from language. While the swearing is something quite akin to what you might find in your average High School and the way it was written felt natural, Simon used the F-bomb more than enough times to push the rating to an R. For my part, I’m not a fan of swearing and vulgarity. It wasn’t as ridiculous as some of the swearing from a Samuel L. Jackson or Sean Penn role, but it was overused for my taste.
Overall, I found the storyline interesting particularly because of the twisted way the plot points unraveled and kept the characters and reader off balance and unsure who to trust or where to go. When I started the book, I was unaware that it was part of a series so I was a little perturbed when I reached the last few chapters and rather than finding it winding down to a conclusion I found that more conflict was being created until we finally end with the characters moving on to wait for book two to hopefully drive closer to a resolution. I have no problem with the idea of a series but I am getting a little series-weary and would love more stand-alone books that perhaps then have a sequel set in the same world with the same or related characters. Knowing that I’ll probably have to wait a full year for the next book and also knowing that I’ve already got a number of series that I’m following, it’s unclear whether I’ll grab book two or not. I hate leaving things unfinished and this story is interesting and leaves me wondering how they’ll work things out.
Will I read the next book…I honestly don’t know. This one does give a small bit of closure but not enough to be fully stand-alone. If you can live with that, go ahead and give it a read. Otherwise you might want to wait until the series is complete so you can binge read the whole thing. Generally speaking I found it a fun book with a fun story.
3.5 out of 5 stars
There are so many layers to Otherworld. First, there is the new Otherworld headset technology that was released to a couple thousand test users, which was awesome by itself. You basically got to experience a whole world where you could do anything you wanted to do. Do you want to visit breathtakingly beautiful alps? Go for it? Do you want to visit the coolest resort ever and live a life of luxury risk and cost free? Go for it! So this Otherworld is awesome, right? But then there is the other, secret layer to Otherworld, starting in the White City. I don’t want to get too much into the details, but let’s just say it is next level. What I loved so much about this world within a world was that I wasn’t expecting it at all! It was such a cool development. Once I got to that point in the story, I literally put my book down, interrupted whatever (less important, I’m sure…) thing my boyfriend was doing, and started gushing about how cool this book was. (btw- he is currently reading, and loving it!)
Otherworld follows our main character, Simon as he goes on a quest style adventure to save his best friend. It is deliciously dark and mysterious, and every bit as addiction as Otherworld itself. In addition to Simon, there are plenty of great secondary characters that accompany Simon through the world. I loved Carol and Gorog because they added a lot of great humor throughout the story. Otherworld felt terrifyingly realistic at times. The world building was excellent and the plot was perfect. I couldn’t put this book down. Otherworld will take the readers in an unexpected direction, which I loved. The mystery element of the book is great, and I am dying for the second installment. I hope this is going to be a long series. Otherworld has made me want to dive into other gamer/virtual reality novels, so leave me some recs below!
Bottom line: Otherworld is one of my favorite books of 2017. I really, really loved this one! I need more from this author duo and from the Otherworld series!
-Disclaimer- I was sent a copy of this book for free. I was not compensated for my review and all thoughts are my own.
There was too much stretching the imagination. Fiction readers are happy to set aside a certain amount of disbelief, this story pushes that a little too far. Maybe it's because I program computers and have studied AI, this is not how it works. While there is a danger with AI, it's not represented accurately here. The dangers of spending too much time online are well represented in this book though and I was impressed at the lack of sugar coating.
Another thing that bothered me was the self confidence of the protagonist. His description of himself is not flattering in the least but he is very confident and doesn't seem to mind that he's not in any way hot. I've never met a young man that age that was that confident. During the teen years, every flaw is magnified, it takes time for young people to gain that kind of confidence.
Overall, despite the somewhat unrealistic AI and protagonist, this is a well written book. The story is solid. It's a part of a series or will be. The loose ends that had to be tied up at the end were, but some threads were left open for a sequel.