I read a Cybils book the other day wherein the villain was so clearly and easily identified that I lay the book down in reproach. (I couldn't throw it, but I thought about it.) Really? I asked it, Is that all you've got? Well, I didn't have to ask that question this time; in EREBOS there is no simple way to ascertain whodunnint - or whodunwhat, and that, my writing group tells me, is the mark of a master mystery-writer.
Someone has described this book as Fight Club meets "World of Warcraft." I think that's pretty apt - it's a game nobody talks about, but it simply consumes the players. Of course, what you don't know can consume you as well... I can see gamers and non-gamers alike REALLY getting into this one, and wondering if they could have played better...
Reader Gut Reaction: Based on the cover, I didn't think the book was going to be anything but pure horror in a multi-player gaming platform - I expected zombies and screams and bloodshed hacking through the computer at me. No... it was so much more subtle than that. And the subtlety is what won me over - and the characters, too. If you're going to freak me out, you're better off doing it with tiny things out of place in a locked room than with herds of zombies groaning and dragging themselves at me. Zombies you can find some kerosene and light up and wander away from whilst they die. Things out of place in your house when you know it was hermetically sealed - those things are going to eat at you until you figure them out. Suspense, subtlety, and shivers - an unbeatable combination, but not for the reasons you suspect. This is mad scientist stuff with a soupçon of ethics thrown in, and it's fun.
Concerning Character: Nick, at sixteen, is surprised to find himself out of the loop with the Next Thing in school - his best friend, Collin, is well into it, but he says it's the next Limp Bizkit CD or something - which, after a point, Nick knows very well it's not, since air-headed Brynne has it, the Freaks have copies, and who are they to get a new CD before he does? And why does Collin seem to be begging them for something? When Nick FINALLY gets his hands on the CD - from Brynne, incidentally - it's a thrill, a huge thrill. He's in the know at LAST, and the game is amazing. Except... it knows him, really well. Maybe too well...
Recommended for Fans Of...: The film, War Games, Data from Star Trek, I, Robot, and Robot City by Isaac Asimov, as well as his others on the positronic robot; Cinder, by Melissa Meyers, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Phillip K. Dick, Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, Feet of Clay, by Terry Pratchett, etc.
Cover Chatter: A bright red cover with an eye... works. The battered red paint underscores the idea that the game isn't for the faint of heart or the easily bruised. The tagline It's a game. It watches you is by way of being the most unnerving and simple explanation for things that could have ever been said - very concise, very evocative. Rather than trying to depict the characters, who matter very little in the face of the awesome that is Erebos, the cover targets the emotions the book brings out in the reader: the emotion of creeptasticality, if I may. I like it a lot.
Authorial Asides: This is a tightly written and suspenseful novel, and there's a clarity of style that's evident despite its being a translation. The novel was originally written and published in Austria, where apparently things are MUCH CREEPIER than they are here. Yowza. This book is rightfully a 2012 ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list nomination, and won the Jugendliteraturpreis in Austria.
FTC: This book was sent courtesy of Annick Press; unsolicited review.
You can find EREBOS by Ursula Poznanski online, or at brick-and-mortar indies near you.