4 out of 4 stars
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It’s sometime in the near future, and Battlecraft is the newest and hottest virtual reality multiplayer game on the market. Teams from all over the world compete for the title of Battlecraft champions. Formed only a few months ago, The Untouchables team consists of a mail-order bride facing deportation, a former foster kid with anger issues and a chip on her shoulder, a war veteran on parole, a Ph.D. candidate on the brink of dropping out, and the owner of a cannabis delivery service. Somehow, despite being underfunded and underappreciated, this ragtag group of near strangers has moved up through the rankings and shocked fans everywhere by making it into the world finals.
After their surprising semifinal victory, the Untouchables have only a few weeks to prepare for the finals. But upon returning home, their best player disappears. Where is she? Did she go into hiding to avoid being deported? Was it one of the many gaming world trolls, livid at the idea of a female-led team making the finals, finally making good on his online threats? What about her creepy husband? If the rest of the team is going to find her before the finals, they will need to overcome their differences and work together, testing their virtual reality gaming skills against real-world dangers.
I am not a gamer by any means, but Battlecraft VR by Linden Storm pulled me right in from the opening gaming scene with its vivid descriptions and flawless introductions of the characters. The point of view shifted between several of the characters throughout the book, pulling the plot along swiftly with its mystery and action. By about two-thirds of the way through the book, my adrenaline was really pumping, and I was completely invested in the Untouchables and their plight. I think this book has the makings of a great movie, and I would love to see this story on the big screen someday.
The near future United States setting is fun and believable. Only self-driving cars are allowed on interstate highways. Peoples’ identification and bank account information is contained on scannable implanted chips. “Smart” shirts can self-clean, monitor the wearer’s heart rate, and alert the wearer to new social media notifications. Unfortunately, though technology has progressed, the social issues that plague us today are still present in the future. Sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia still run rampant in certain circles, and the characters have to face this prejudice head-on.
The most impressive part of this book to me was the character development. The author seamlessly weaves each character’s backstory into the plot in a way that really lets me into their psyches. The writing style varies with each character’s perspective as well, so they have identifiable and distinct personalities. Some have a great sense of humor while some are more serious, and some have more hurt and anger to work through. All of the characters are flawed, but all of them are realistic, and I grew to adore them. I felt privileged to get to see them grow throughout the course of the novel as their challenges brought them closer to each other and their own self-understanding.
Although there is nothing that I truly disliked about Battlecraft VR, I did find the theme of combatting prejudice to be a bit surface level. The good guys are enlightened, and the bad guys are bigots. I felt like the author could have gone a little bit deeper into tackling this issue, maybe by addressing the root of why some of the characters felt the way they did. Nevertheless, the story is fantastic as it is, and I feel that the themes of teamwork, trust, and what it means to be a family are all brilliantly explored.
The book was well edited. I did find a handful of small errors, but they were nothing that detracted from the story. Because of how much I loved the characters and the action-packed plot, I happily rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. If you are interested in gaming or virtual reality, you will love this book. But even if you are not, like me, Battlecraft VR has so much to offer a reader, and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys great characters and fast-paced action stories.
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