Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tremain's Book Corner: "Arena" by Holly Jennings

Arena
Place Hold
Author: Holly Jennings
Reviewed By: Tremain Jackson, South Branch Manager
Personal Rating: 3 Stars

Book Summary: The RAGE tournaments - the Virtual Gaming League's elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death.  Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions.  Every player is a modern gladiator - leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.  And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.
Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world - until one of her teammates overdoses.  Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament.  Because it is much more than a game - and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets.  And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside...

Personal Review: Hmm...I went into reading this novel completely blind.  I hadn't heard of the author, I'm not much of a sci-fi reader, and after reading the synopsis, I'm not much of a gamer.  However, it did give me those initial Hunger Games feelings with the fact that they were battling to the death for audiences to enjoy...even if that battle was in a virtual world.  However, I was trying to keep an open mind.

That being said, I really just couldn't get into the book.  Overall, it was not a bad read, it was just not something I particularly gravitate to.  It would have worked better if re-worked as a YA novel, but for adults, not so much.  What brought this out of the young adult classification was the inclusion of sex and drugs to keep it more adult in nature, but if it's not done so in an engaging way, it just becomes noise in the background.

The first third of the book started out very slow and not bringing anything new to the table.  You're introduced to the players and then spend a large portion of your time (as a reader) seeing how they (as a team) wanted their image to be to the public, how they could make it better, and just the basic drama surrounding that.  I skipped pages at this point.

Going through, it never truly picked up to the full force I wanted it to.  I was expecting to get more action and (dare I say it) gaming in this book.  Instead, I got a ton of drama and romance, sex, drugs, and that wasn't enough to keep my full attention.  The action scenes that were included, set in a virtual reality, were well done.  I commend the author on that as they were engaging and exciting and you see just how much Kali (the main protagonist) is just awesome when it came down to fighting.  I just could have used more of that.

I also found it rather difficult to connect with Kali as a character.  She pretty much irritated me a bit.  Again, that happened during about the first third of the book and it got better along the way as her character was able to grow and turn into a strong and dominant character.

Overall, the book wasn't horrible, but it just wasn't the best book I've ever read, which is why I kept my rating towards the middle.  The action scenes were good, I finished the book, I ended up liking Kali, and that's all great, but at the end of the day, it could have been stronger...and without all the drama to distract you.  If I had to put it up against Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series, Katniss Everdeen would certainly win the battle each time.

But don't take my word for it.  Like I said, it's hard for me to get into sci-fi reads.  But if you enjoy futuristic (well, set in 2054) novels about gaming, virtual reality, sex, and drugs with a female lead...you've got a winner in this one.

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