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Rage Against The Gaming Machine

Gard Skinner's Game Slaves is an action-packed trip that will have you questioning what is real.

Rage Against The Gaming Machine

BOOK REPORT for Game Slaves by Gard Skinner

Cover Story: Black Star 360
BFF Charm: Nah
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Down to Business
Bonus Factor: The Matrix
Relationship Status:  Exciting First Date

Cover Story: Black Star 360

I really liked this cover, which looks like the cover of an Xbox 360 game, as well as the way the rest of the novel is designed (levels instead of chapters, “loading…” pages). I'm a sucker for a well-executed parody. I showed it to my husband and he said, “they’re trying to make it look too much like Halo,” but when I explained that that was the point, he perked up and was interested, too. 

The Deal:

Phoenix and his crew are the best Black Star company NPC (non-player character) team out there. They’re the characters who lurk in the shadows, ready to pick you off and make your game more difficult – and if you happen to take them out first, no big deal, they’ll just end up on the regeneration table and be assigned to another game landscape for awhile. “Life” as a computer creation is great – until Dakota shows up and starts questioning the order of things.  She suspects that she’s really human, and there’s life outside the game. Are they merely bits of code, or is something more sinister afoot?

BFF Charm: Nah

No one in this book is the kind of person you’d want to invite over for wine and a The Originals marathon, but that doesn’t take away from the story.  Phoenix has about as much emotional depth as the binary system – although he claims to love his big-bosomed sniper counterpart, Mi, and feel kinship to his teammates, he’s also a bit of an immature brat. (Not that anyone can blame him – he was just programmed that way.) I wouldn’t want to be his best friend, but if I needed someone to take out a zombie cowboy, he’d be first on my speed dial.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

This isn’t a swoony sort of book, although Phoenix and Mi have a “romantic” relationship. It’s hard to find time to have real emotions (or sexy time) when you’re busy questioning whether you’re code or human, to say nothing of getting your eyeballs plopped back into your skull in time for the next adventure.

Talky Talk: Down to Business

Gard Skinner’s prose is all business, which works for this novel. Phoenix’s voice is practical, blunt, and prone to admiring particularly heavy weaponry. Anything more flowery would be out of place in this action-adventure novel.

Bonus Factor: The Matrix

Whoa.

Although this novel has shades of The Matrix and Patrick Ness’ More Than This, it’s a fun, different take on the “how do we know what is real?” sci-fi subgenre.  I can’t say much more for fear of spoiling the book, but the plot kept me guessing.

Casting Call:

Matt Lauria as Phoenix

Deborah Ann Woll as Dakota

Deborah Ann Woll is so stunningly pretty, especially on True Blood, she might as well be a video game creation.

Megan Fox as Mi

Relationship Status: Exciting First Date

Like a date at an amusement park, you offered me thrills, chills, and fun. I don’t think we’re ultimately meant for each other, but I’ll look back fondly on our time together – and hook you up with one of my nice gamer friends.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from HMH Publishing Company.  I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one.  Game Slaves is available now.

Jennie's photo About the Author: Jennie Kendrick lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness of historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. When she's not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, and thrifts for vintage everything.