Echos’ Revenge: The Ultimate Game

18106897

Author: Sean Austin

Publication: 2012, AAA Reality Games

Pages: 280

Overall Rating: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Brothers Reggie and Jeremy live with their divorced mom and her alcoholic, abusive boyfriend. Their escape is online video games and Reggie is one of the top players of a game called Echo Hunt, where the objective is to work in teams to hunt down and destroy Echo, a 35’ tall extreme predator that can shape shift and turn invisible at will.

Following a particularly nasty run in with the boyfriend, Reggie and Jeremy take off on a journey from Oregon to Southern California to find their dad. But unknown to them, their online game has taken a vicious turn. Echo is real, and he’s hunting all the top online players. One-by-one their fellow gamers disappear as the noose tightens around Reggie and Jeremy. With their video game suddenly come to life, will they have what it takes to survive?

Age of Main Character: 11 and 14

What I Liked the Most: This was a cool concept. Austin put both himself and the publisher, AAA Reality Games, directly into the story. AAA is the company that created Echo Hunt and Reggie is invited to their offices for a focus group. They continue to pop up throughout the story as Reggie and Jeremy try to figure out what in the world is going on. And Austin makes a cameo appearance early in the story, providing Reggie with a vital clue to how to defeat Echo. It’s a novel concept and Austin pulls it off with style.

Since this book really was written for gamers, Austin does an excellent job of incorporating online gaming into the story.   Throughout the book Reggie and Jeremy have to draw upon their gaming knowledge and the strategies they used in the virtual world in order to fight Echo in the real one. And while I can’t comment on how accurate the science is Austin does incorporate a lot of tech and weaponry into the book, the same kinds of tech and weaponry you might find in your average video game – from rocket fueled cars to grenade launchers.

What I Liked the Least: The writing itself was fairly weak. Lots of word repetition, clumsy phrasing, and telling us what everyone was thinking instead of just showing it. The degree to which all this is annoying will depend on how much you get hung up on quality of writing versus story.

I also have to admit that the basic premise made it a little hard to take this book seriously. I couldn’t fully get into the idea that AAA Reality Games actually created a 35’ robot with advanced AI programming, insane shape shifting technology, and a cloaking device, rather than just setting up an advanced VR suite for gamers who really want to put themselves into the action. This is crazy technology, and the idea of it being developed here and now by a small gaming company felt so far-fetched that it was hard to buy into the rest of the story. But, as with the writing, whether or not this is really a problem depends on the reader. If you can suspend disbelief enough in order to buy into the idea of a real Echo, then you’ll have yourself an excellent time.

An Interesting Issue: As part of gearing his writing towards gamers, Austin made a strategic choice to incorporate head-hoping into the book. So while most of the story took place from Reggie’s point of view, it was not uncommon to suddenly find myself in another character’s head for a paragraph or even a sentence before jumping back to Reggie. I both liked this and disliked it at the same time.

According to Austin, “One thing gamers are good at is multiplexing and absorbing information from many directions at once, and acting on that stream of information immediately. Since gamers hop around from numerous perspectives, into the avatars of friends and enemies alike, bounce between levels, and respawn to escape immediate peril or change their location for tactical purposes, this multi-perspective style was chosen for the books.”

I appreciate Austin sincere efforts to write to his target audience, and for gamers the style may be perfect – hence why I like it. But for me, it was jarring and made the book harder to read – hence why I don’t.

How Good was the Action? Some of the chases and fights with Echo provide a real adrenaline rush. There’s a particularly good chase through the storm sewers, and the final battle with Echo is tense and exciting.   But the scenes can get a little confusing because of all the head hopping. During the final battle I kept getting pulled out of the action by sentences and paragraphs trying to tell me what everyone was thinking as they watched Echo fight Reggie and Jeremy.

How Engaging was the Story? I was drawn to Reggie and Jeremy’s characters, with their horrific home life, their strong relationship, and their profound desire to escape to something better – heading out on the road with no one to rely on but each other. And knowing Echo was out there, hunting for them, tracking them, only added to the story. Some of the supporting characters are pretty thin, but Reggie and Jeremy were strong enough to carry most of the story on their own. And once Echo captures them, the excitement keeps ramping up.

Overall Assessment: A cool concept that blurs the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Gamers everywhere will be in their element.

Profanity: None.

Sex: None.

Violence: Some, but it’s not remotely graphic.

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