Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: Arena by Holly Jennings

Author: Holly Jennings
Series: Arena (Book 1)
Publication: Ace (April 5, 2016)

Description: A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming...

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...

The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside...

My Thoughts: ARENA is a near-future science fiction story in which video gaming has gone virtual and players have the status of elite athletes or rock stars today. Kali Ling is twenty and deep into the gaming world. She is also deep in the lifestyle partying every night and using all sorts of drugs. But there are consequences.

Kali is beginning to feel that the virtual world is more real than real life. She makes any excuse to spend time in that virtual world. She and her team are taking part in a tournament. They are soundly defeated in the first round and now have to make their way to the championship through the loser's bracket.

Things become even more difficult for Kali when one of her teammates with whom she had a sexual relationship overdoses and dies in her bed. More chilling is that the owner and sponsors cover up his death by saying it was a heart problem and try to do their best to erase him from the public's memory. Kali thinks this is wrong and her guilt at not saving her friend also sends her deeper into her self-destructive spin.

A new guy - James Rooke - is brought in to fill the empty place on the team. He and Kali don't click at first. He seems to be standoffish despite being an excellent game player. It isn't until Kali bottoms out and decides to fight her addiction to gaming that she begins to see Rooke's strengths. He has fought the fight she is fighting.

This seems like a very realistic possible future. You could slot in any professional sport today with the public adulation, potential exploitation by owners and sponsors, and the careless lifestyle of the newly rich and famous as a model for Kali's life.

While I thought her transformation was too abrupt, I enjoyed watching Kali grow up and choose her life's path and goals.

Favorite Quote:
"We don't die, you idiot. We never die. We just wake up. You know why the rest of us do this? Why we drink and party and get so high we can't remember our own names: It's just to pass the time until we can go back to what's real."
I got this one for review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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