Recently I was contacted by Jeff Deck co-author of The Great Typo Hunt, which was one of my very early reviews on this website. You can read my review of The Great Typo Hunt here. Jeff sent me a free copy of his newest creation, his eBook Player Choice, in exchange for an honest review.
Summary from Amazon:
It’s 2040. With neural implants, people can play games in an immersive virtual reality known as the aether space. Game designer Glen Cullather has a plan for the most ambitious aether game ever imagined: a fantasy epic that gives players the freedom to do anything.
But Glen’s own life is fragmenting into alternate realities. He can’t tell whether his aether game idea has succeeded, or failed miserably. And Freya Janoske is either his biggest rival, or his most intimate partner. Glen must figure out what’s real and what’s, well, fantasy—for his own survival.
Player Choice is a fast-paced gaming sci-fi adventure that dares to ask:
What happens when unreality becomes our reality?
The book is divided into two very distinct parts. The first part is about Glen’s very real alternate realities that are akin to reading about some very lucid dreams. The question is which one is real. Like lucid dreams there are some really real and emotional moments that make it hard to decipher what is happening, but like Glen I knew something was up and while I figured out mostly what was going on, I didn’t quite figure out everything. Which, as we all know, I enjoy immensely. I also enjoy reading about, discussing, and researching lucid dreaming, so this was definitely my favorite part of the book.
Part of the message that Glen is trying to tell in his games is about player choice besides violence and human agency. But Glen has almost no agency in his own life. In fact, I really didn’t like his character at all for quite a bit. He’s that guy. The guy that thinks every single romantic female wants to cut away at his manhood. Just because he fantasizes about her, she must be who he thinks she is. He has no idea how to socially interact with anyone except for two people, and even then after years of friendship, he has hidden huge areas of his life from them. Yet, he expects everyone to respect him. This is the guy I’ve avoided all my life. Glen is unable to express anything except through anger or leaving. His interests must be everyone’s interests. How he sees the world is how it is. Introspection is for the weak. Yes, real healthy there Glen. Thankfully, Glen does learn a lesson or two and by the end of the first part I could at least stand him if not completely empathize with him. His choices led to where he is, and he has to deal with those consequences.
The second part of the book delves into Glen’s gaming world, the one that he created. I’ll be honest, not my favorite part of the book. But, I’m not the worlds biggest gamer. So reading about, what I’ll admit is a very cool gaming world, wasn’t as exciting for me as the lucid dreaming like part. I think people who are gamers, will really enjoy this part of the book. Jeff has definitely built a cool game in Glen’s world and the game has nuances that make it interesting on a deeper level than just conquering bosses. It was interesting, but I was looking for human interest pieces in among the gaming. Glen’s relationship with his girlfriend was interesting and Glen’s past was interesting. I wish there had been more of that than of the gaming, but that is just the type of thing I enjoy more personally.
Glen’s past is rather sordid. He has a lot of family issues. Which are usually the points of a book I really enjoy. I did have one minor issue and that was Glen’s relationship with his sister. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is not a healthy relationship, and may even need a trigger warning that it is of very adult non-healthy relationship issue. I think such things do need to be talked about, and dealt with and definitely fiction is an avenue for that discussion. But I don’t think gaming is therapy. Glen did not deal with his “coming to terms” with their relationship in a way that is conducive to him actually healing from it. He goes from one emotion about it to the next without any real introspective reflection or decision about what is healthy for him. I also believe it takes more than a few days to heal from something like that and while it is definitely a very good start that Glen started talking about his past with his friends, it is just that, a start.
I wish authors would create some sort of sci fi/ fantasy universal health center that they would periodically send their characters to so that people who read these books could see a way of dealing with emotions that isn’t slashing at them with magical swords or dousing them in potions. Take Harry Potter for example, that is one character that really needs some sort of therapy. I could name a ton billion trillion characters like that. I know this is one of my personal soap boxes, so other people who read this book may not have the same reaction.
What I do think is telling, is that I had a reaction. I like books that strike up an emotional feeling and engage me in the world that I am reading. Jeff has definitely written such a book. As a side note, Jeff’s grammar past has definitely done him some good. I’ve read a few self-published books recently and his is definitely formatted the best, and didn’t have any typos or grammar mistakes that I caught. It was quite refreshing! If you want to give Player Choice a try, check it out on Amazon where it is free! I assume that is for a limited time, so hurry up and head on over there.
Player Choice leads the reader down dream like paths into alternative realities and worlds that will make them reexamine their own choices and agency.