2 out of 4 stars
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Imagine you came home from work and sat down to check the internet. Your screen displayed an emergency message telling you to stay inside and secure your house. Then an error message appeared saying the system was shutting down and collecting data for a crash dump. Soon, the electricity goes out and everything with batteries or computer chips stops working.
This is the opening scene of Blue Screen by Kyle Benzle. The story is set in a near-future where technology is slightly more advanced than now. The main character, Peter, fears it is some sort of attack using an EMP. His parents, however, decide to just wait and see if everything gets resolved. Despite the fact that the electric is still not on the next day, they catch a ride to work with a neighbor who owns an old, classic car, and send Peter to school. The school is closed, but Peter manages to sneak in and find a working computer. The computer addresses him by name and tells him to come to a nearby Telecommunications Station. Thus begins Peter’s adventure to find out and fix whatever is happening to his world.
The premise of the book is pretty intriguing. I was impressed with how much history the author built into the book. There are footnotes about a war that happened and how the current internet-type system got set up. The author also obviously has a thorough understanding of technology himself. The explanations are sometimes complex. However, this also created my least favorite parts of the book. It got too into the nitty-gritty of systems and needed more character building. Early in the story, all the characters have similar temperaments. Some characters have backstories while others are flat. The story also seems to struggle for identity. It has elements of mystery and sci-fi with an attempt at romance all wrapped in dystopian. Altogether, it just did not grab me. There was a pretty great twist near the end, but I don’t know if I would have read that far if I was not reading it to do a review.
The book is about teenagers, but I could see it in adult or young adult literature. There is one scene where a character gets shot, but it is not graphic. Also, there is profanity, so it is not recommended for anyone who prefers not to read that type of language. I think science fiction fans with a pretty good understanding of technology would enjoy this book. However, the book does not seem to be professionally edited. I found three comma errors in the first ten pages and numerous other errors throughout the book.
Overall, I would give this book a rating of 2 out of 4 stars. It has a promising plot and a great reveal in the last half, so it is worth more than one point. However, the editing errors and the lack of character development keep me from giving it a three.
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