Virtual Reality Cookies are Sweet but Need Meat: A review for Gamers, by Thomas K. Carpenter

Once upon a time I saw an incredibly delicious cookie. I had no self-control, so that little morsel was taken care of within 90 minutes time. Now you probably understand that I’m talking about a book, not a baked treat, and that book is Gamers by Thomas K. Carpenter.

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Image courtesy of Amazon.com

This is a true young adult dystopian coming in at 324 pages and a near carbon-copy of Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series. This book is fun to read, the concept is creative, and the idea that someone could “hack” life for real is pretty darn cool, in my opinion. Having said that, this book is pretty typical of mainstream YA sci-fi except Carpenter leaves out a bucketload of stuff that’d catapult his book from being a great self-published novel to a bestseller. Now on to the good stuff:

Gabby is a high school student living in a nerd’s dream: every activity in life is gamified and everything can earn you lifepoints (e.g. getting good grades, solving problems, brushing teeth, etc). Gabby’s deal is she’s quite good at LifeGame. She even hacks it to help her friend Zaela, who isn’t so great.

The plot thrust is that Gabby makes contact with an insurgent group called the Frags. They’re losers in the LifeGame but know the truth about the gamified reality. I loved this part of the book most but it was the smallest section! I hardly got to know the Frags at all or what they’d discovered about LifeGame’s sinister control factor. It was just a taste before Carpenter threw me into Gabby’s “Final Raid.” Some extra exposition at this point would be greatly appreciated, not to mention helpful for the novel’s character development.

Gabby’s “Final Raid” was a sort of fantasy adventure to earn her last lifepoints before graduation. This section took up well over fifty percent of the text. It was quite entertaining to read but did little to satisfy any curiosity I had about LifeGame, the government, the Frags, or how Gabby was going to deal with life after high school. Basically, if Carpenter were to make Gamers about 100 pages longer, there would be better character development and interaction overall, especially between Gabby and her friend Zaela. The concept of LifeGame is a sweet treat but it’s the people that make everything compelling.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.