This is a story about a high school girl that wants to graduate with good results and get her best-friend in the the same University as her. The only difference between this girl and any other high school girl is that she lives in our future when everything is hidden behind layers of augmented reality. Even the world itself is edited and controlled by a government agency. Oh, and everything is a game and can be played. Welcome to LifeGame. Reality starts breaking down when Gabby learns that her personal files, literally her identity has been hacked by dissidents calling themselves the Frags and that the government wants to check what they have altered. Gabby can’t let them do this because then they would find out that she has been hacking LifeGame to help her friend improve her scores.
The cover art features the face of a young lady with her LifeScore superimposed beneath her left eye. Its quite catchy except for the typography which cheapens the overall impact. The blurb and the opening chapter is intriguing and had me reading the first three chapters even before I had considered reviewing it.
The concept isn’t a new one, with Hollywood already having given the game world encroaching on reality the big screen treatment, e.g. Tron and the now retro-looking Running Man, amongst other more recent efforts. But Carpenter’s take on it is refreshingly modern and applies the rules of Massive Multiplayer Online (MMOs) games like Second Life and Playstation Home, with mini-games adding to an overall score and customisable wardrobe and living spaces as standard. He also captures the obsessive behaviour of MMO players of squirrelling away every spare minute and immersing themeselves in marathon-length sorties into the game world through the addition of LifeScore, with the students seeking every opportunity from brushing their teeth to doing homework to get points. There even is a school league table to show whose currently on top and who is below the required level to qualify for university. The world of LifeGame has its own slang too, just like in the world of Harry Potter, which is a very nice touch, even though some readers may initially find themselves as at a loss to understanding what buffering is.
So why didn’t this book get four stars? The occasional word mix-up or confusing sentences on their own don’t overly take away from this story and the writing and language for most part is good, but the pacing of the narrative and the individual components of it don’t quite sync. Also, I found the ending rather unsatisfactory, even though there is still plenty of story to carry on in a sequel, I think it could have been handled better and kept the reader more on edge for the next installment. Another issue of concern, though it doesn’t affect how good this book is, is the use of the names of existing or former game developers for school names, especially considering how touchy corporations are about thier IP and branding.
Gamers scores a very good 3.75 and I do recommend that you read this book to experience the trippy world of LifeGame.