Summary: An amazing new video game has the power to resurrect the brightest minds of the past and see what they’d create in the modern world. There’s just one catch—it requires another person’s soul. Carter Chance, who is a teenage genius, must find a way to stop his generation from exchanging their souls for a computer-generated fantasy. This action-packed thriller delves into the enticement and dangers of virtual reality. (Summary and image from goodreads.com. I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for a review.)
My Review: There aren't many kids who can say they've been named Most Likely to Succeed - by the President. There also aren't too many who would hunt down and arrest a Russian mobster to impress a girl. You'd think that something like that would make Carter Chance, teen genius, somewhat likable, but it doesn't. The downfall with him being a genius is that he's well aware of it, and crazy proud.
It seems almost insulting to him when The Lazarus Corporation opens a new video game store in his town and then offers him a job. He's asked to assist Geoffrey Chaucer, president and CEO of the Lazarus Corporation in updating and perfecting the Lazarus Game. He's offered wealth, fame, toys, power, oh, and immortality. Why not? However, there's that pesky Hobo Warrior that keeps popping up. And what's with the changing features of the Lazarine (the employees of his new comrade)?
Stephen Valentine has crafted a story in the same thread of Inception meets Spy Kids, with a little Hocus Pocus thrown in. Worlds within worlds, lives being drained to sustain the lives of geniuses that should have long passed away, and the intrigue that surrounds it all - honestly, while it was a fast-paced ride, it felt a little jumbled and a little too forced into the mold. Carter is a jerk to everyone around him, and I understand that that was part of the character development, but he is so arrogant, so demeaning to those around him that when the clues of why he behaves like that and the expected character growth emerge, it doesn't feel real. It certainly isn't an organic change, and it made me unsure whether I wanted to root for him.
Aside from the flaws of our hero, this book was a difficult one for me to love. A big part of that was truly my disdain for Carter -- at one point, I was cheering for the Russian mobster -- but I didn't feel like the impetus of the book was as well-explained as it could have been. I felt like the only reason anything was moving forward was because the book said so, and that just makes for a clunky read.
I liked the premise of the book. Pit a genius against THE genius in a battle of worlds within worlds, for the sake of humanity. Unfortunately, the genius displayed by our protagonist was no greater than that of most fairly-bright kids. It just didn't resonate with me.
My Rating: Two and a half stars
For the Sensitive Reader: Violence, a few beheadings, and just some serious arrogance from the protagonist. This book may be better received by a 13-15 year old boy. I fully admit I'm not its target demographic.