Rick Dial was an athlete’s athlete, on his way to a big-time college scholarship, focus of all the pretty ladies, envy of all the guys. Then came the car wreck, when his future was torn away from him with a screech of rubber and a crash of metal. Now Dial is confined to his chair or crutches and, instead of the gridiron, he finds himself most at home in the virtual world.
But those gaming skills draw attention from some very important people. Government officials have uncovered a potentially devastating cyber-threat. A Russian genius has created a virtual reality called the Realm, from which he can control any computer system he chooses. Those very same government officials want Rick, with his quarterback mind and gaming skills, to enter that virtual reality the stop the threat.
Mindwar has a great premise that ultimately fails in execution. Nothing is explained properly and all the twists seem just so obvious. Rick’s injury is never dealt with in any substantive fashion. We’re never told the exact nature or extent of his injury. Instead of a way of giving Rick’s character depth, showing him struggling to overcome adversity, it instead becomes a device to explain his video gaming ability and his motivation to enter the Realm. The whole concept is a rather blatant ripoff of the premise of Avatar and has been done many ways before that.
Second, “The Realm” is never explained. It’s a virtual reality world, yes, but how does that help the cyberterrorists win, exactly? How does entering it help stop them? The answers to these questions are unsatisfactory. Again, rather than providing the story with depth, it’s there simply as a device to move the story to the fun part—Rick’s experience in The Realm.
I really tried to like this novel. I’ve enjoyed Klavan’s novels in the past and they come highly recommended from people I know and trust. Stephen King himself has sung Klavan’s praises. But I guess every great novelist needs one clunker. I really hope this one is Klavan’s. I may stick around to read book two to see if the storyline improves, but that’s based on his past reputation, not on this book. If you’re really wanting to check out his work, I recommend starting with Crazy Dangerous or The Homelanders series.
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