Stuck in the Game, by Christopher Keene, is a young adult novel set (mostly) in a virtual world known as the Dream Engine. Noah wakes up in the game, unsure of where he is and what brought him there. He finally realizes he’s in the game to preserve his life after a horrific car accident. His girlfriend is in a coma, and he has to do everything he can to not die in the game or he might end up the same way.
The setting of the game (a virtual world where the main character can’t logout) reminded me a lot of my favorite cross-media universe, .hack//. There were many similarities, making me wonder if the author had played, read, or watched any of that series. Even with the similarities, there are quite a few differences, so Stuck in the Game is not a case of slightly-altered fan fiction.
I really liked the characters, though they were stereotypical for this type of story. A main character who can’t logout for some reason. The big tough warrior character who knows more than he lets on. The cute and bubbly tough gal who is in it just to have fun. A somewhat-shy-but-not-really healer who hangs out in the game with her kick-butt ninja-style fighter friend who is not shy at all. Noah’s real life friend who also know more than he wants to share. Anyone familiar with this subgenre will feel right at home in this story. Even the villain was stereotypical, only missing a maniacal laugh.
The plot itself is fairly straight-forward. There are a couple twists in Stuck in the Game, though they were not really surprising. The pacing of the story worked well. The beginning was a little disjointed, though that may have been on purpose to show how the main character was feeling.
The story held my attention, despite its stereotypical nature. I stayed up longer than I should have just to finish reading it, and not many books can get me to do that. I enjoyed how the players interacted, and I am interested in reading a sequel, if there is one (the way the story ended makes that a strong possibility). While Stuck in the Game is not on the top of my favorites list, it is still a fun book. MMORPG gamers will definitely get a kick out of it.
Review copy kindly provided by the publisher.
Release Date: August 4, 2016 (USA)
Publisher: Future House Publishing
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (drug used to play the game)
Language: 1 (brief, minor)
Sexuality: 1 (brief)
Violence: 1 (fantasy violence, peril)