Following up from the events of the last book, Simon is now on the run with Busara and Kat, and they are looking for a way to rescue Busara’s father who was the original creator of the disc. Meanwhile, the Company restricts entry into the Otherworld for exclusively headset users, the number of which is limited, which means mostly rich ashholes are getting in, in a place where the worst of human impulses manifest. Simon gets help from his hacker friend Elvis, but it is still an uphill battle for them, going one step forward, two steps back in the even more deadly version of Otherworld, where Children are being hunted, and the Company is trying to develop a new technology called OtherEarth.
Going into this book was not the same quest-like experience as was in the last, but it is still a mission. They have to seek help from various sources, in order to free James Ogubu from the ice caverns, but even then their path is littered with obstacles. The discs are dangerous, the headsets are unavailable, the Elementals and the Children distrust any guests in the game, and them trying to save them from a horde of evil humans takes a lot of effort. Along with this main storyline, the plot hints at Simon’s altered state, as he starts hallucinating his grandfather even more, and keeps mixing up the two worlds. There was a lag, though, mid-way through the book, because I really was getting tired of them going back and forth on the same thing with not much progress, but it picks up the pace again towards the last quarter of the book. The technology is taken to another level by the end of the story, and the cliffhanger it left on? Whoa!
As for the characters – like before, I feel not enough effort is given to characterization. I thought Kat would be a bigger player in this book, but she is relegated to being his sidekick. Busara is secretive and single-minded, but the secrecy worked in her case because it played into something bigger. Elvis, a new character, stepped into the role of the pervert friend who thinks he is comic relief and has a good heart – cookie cutter fare! Alexei, who was in it for just a bit, felt a bit more fleshed out than these main characters, to be honest. And the lack of good characterization is particularly a downside because this book runs on emotions – they themselves take up the task of saving OtherWorld, even though they don’t have any personal stakes in it, so it is only fair that we know the characters well.
In all, an exciting sequel with raised stakes but problems from the first still persist.