The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Virtual Insanity (Review: Metawars by Jeff Norton)

MetaWars: Fight for the FutureMetawars
Jeff Norton
Orchard 2012

Norton’s near-future dystopian world sees society in ruins, with the majority of citizens choosing to spend their time logged in to an alternative virtual world known as the Metasphere - Jonah being one of them.  Jonah lives with his mother on the top floor of a retired London bus and, it’s fair to say, he’s not having a great time of it.  Continually troubled by the death of his father when he was young, Jonah struggles at his online school, struggles to make friends in the “real” world and, more worryingly, he and his mother struggle to sustain themselves in a world where the majority have nothing.

Upon finding his father’s avatar in the Metasphere however, Jonah’s world changes instantly, althoughnot quite as he had hoped (Avatars are linked from the Metasphere to the body of the user by a docking station in the spine, physically connecting the real world with the virtual).  Although not proving that Jonah’s father was alive, as he had hoped, it turns out that his father left a copy of his avatar in the Metasphere with an explanation of his death, and life, for Jonah to find.  Recounting a tale of opposing extremist groups fighting for control of the Metasphere, Jonah is spurred/somewhat forced into action.  He absorbs his father’s avatar and, in turn, his father’s memories.  Whilst this creates a much longed for connection between Jonah and his father, this also makes Jonah a target for some questionable individuals who are a little too excited about seeing his father’s avatar resurface.  
Aided by his father’s best friend, who is less than thrilled by the whole thing, Jonah joins the fight of the Guardians – a worldwide movement who believe that the Metasphere should not be controlled by a corporation, as is currently the case, and should belong solely to its users.  Their sworn enemy are the Millenials – employees and supports of Metasphere creator Matthew Grainger who hold the belief that the Metasphere should be controlled and monitored.  An epic, global, race against time ensues as the Guardians attempt to penetrate the Millenial compounds and take control of the Metasphere before their adversaries can strengthen their defences.

Whilst MetaWars is well written, well paced and the characters generally, interesting and engaging, the story as a whole felt slightly flat.  I believe that the author’s primary objective was to make the “race against time” section of the story epic and on a grand scale, however, for me, there wasn’t quite enough description or imagery to make these sections pop.  I also feel that MetaWars was at a slight disadvantage being released after the resounding success of Ready Player One which tackled very similar themes in an altogether more rounded work.  Conversely, it is difficult to believe that readers wouldn’t find the book enjoyable – there are car chases, airships, secret identities and suspicious men that wear sunglasses at night.  Whilst Metawars may not be topping any awards lists, it is a solid read with an interesting concept at its centre.  As it is the first book in a planned series, it will be interesting to see how Norton’s world grows and develops and, hopefully, the minor concerns that I had will prove to be nothing more than teething problems.    

This review was brought to you by PolkaDot Steph.  MetaWars is available now. Thank you to the publisher for providing us with this copy to review.


Anonymous said…
Ooh, will have to pick this up. Comparisons to Ready Player One make me happy...
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