Written by Larry Niven and Stephen Barnes
Tor Books hardback
Release date Out now
There’s something a bit dull in reading prose about ‘larping’; it’s surely the sort of activity that is more enjoyable to take part in than read about. By implication, it’s not really the sort of activity that would make for great television either—isn’t that what video games are for?
With this supposition in mind, the opening chapters both fail to grab and don’t seem like a great context for this novel. Once the game gets hijacked though (and the coup launched back on Earth) the story does heat up and become more enticing.
The use of scenes from H.G. Wells’s novels adds a nicely curious setting to the game itself and the confrontations with the terrorists and escape by the game players is dramatically well played.
Perhaps the overall lack of engagement is not helped by the terrorist group being named Neutral Moresnot. Now this could supposedly be based on the real region of Moresnet in Belgium, but whether one vowel was naively changed deliberately or an absurd typo got into the whole book, it seems hard not to read that as More-snot. It does kind of destroy the illusion of the world on the page.
Verdict: It gets better as it goes along, but remains predictable.