(Very full of spoilers. But if you’re actually going to read the book-which is a terrible mistake, run away while you still can-read a kind of spoilery review or at least skim it so you know what you’ve gotten yourself into.)
First, let me say, The Matrix was better.
And The Matrix doesn’t make you wonder if the world you’re living in is a real world or some computer world.
The book starts with an uncomfortably gory chapter about EXACTLY how Seth dies. I don’t mean a little bit gory, I mean I was uncomfortable reading this. It didn’t just say something like “his arm broke” it was HIS ARM BROKE AND IT FELT LIKE THIS AND IT MADE THIS SOUND AND THEN THE BONE CAME THROUGH THE SKIN IN THIS WAY AND ALL OF THIS IS BEING DESCRIBED IN AN EMOTIONALLY SCARRING WAY! What was Patrick Ness going for with this? It doesn’t add ANYTHING to the plot, and it doesn’t make the story any more enjoyable (it actually makes it LESS enjoyable). Was he trying to make Seth’s death seem even more terrible? If so, why?
I read all of this book at night, so maybe I was bothered by it more because it was night? Or maybe I was just bothered by it because it’s… I don’t know what word describes it. Creepy maybe? Unsettling?
It took a VERY long time for Seth to actually find other humans-more than a hundred pages elapse before he met Regine and Tomasz. Yes, he had those flashbacks about his life, but I don’t count those because they were dreams or memories or whatever and there weren’t actually real people. His backstory was important, but maybe he could have run into someone when he went to find food in the town and he could have told them his backstory? It could have been a personal narrative and he could have thought about the past and his backstory. Perhaps he could have come to some important understanding about his life and himself. I would have been fine with both of those, but instead it was over a hundred pages of flashbacks and Seth wandering around eating canned spaghetti.
I might have been happier if there had been something he saw while walking around the town. Maybe a shadow out of the corner of his eye, or maybe he thought he heard voices but there was nothing. Something. I was expecting this book to be horror, and even though there were other people and there was a monster I had started to think that the whole book would be about him wandering around and having flashbacks. It was boring, but there was nothing to be afraid of so I relaxed. I guess some readers might have been bothered by the idea of being all alone. I suppose not being bothered by that says something more about me than about Seth.
And then, without warning, there was The Driver.
The Driver is the thing of nightmares. It’s one of the most terrifying monsters I’ve read about.
One of the worst points of this book is that Owen, Seth’s beloved little brother, is dead. Let me say it again: OWEN DIED. The whole time I thought Owen was alive and just in the computer world and then I figured out that he was dead! I don’t even have words to describe how angry and sad I was when I read this. I don’t do well when little siblings die because I really love my little sister and I can’t think about little siblings dying.
The ending was also terrible. If it had specifically said that Seth got back to the computer world or specifically said that it didn’t work, I would’ve been much happier. (Actually I wouldn’t have been. After I figured out that Owen died the book was dead to me.)
NO STARS. Fine, one, but I don’t really mean it.
I would recommend this book to people who want to stay up until four AM questioning their existence.