There is a disc being passed round at Nick’s school. It’s shrouded in secrecy, no one will talk to him about it when he asks. One day, he finally gets given a copy but only after he has sworn to silence. It is a game, Erebos, where he must fight battles to gain levels and in order to be in with a chance of defeating Ortolan. They only get once chance to play the game and when they are close to dying, the mysterious messenger gives them a second chance. They must complete a task in the real world before they can continue to play the game.
The fictional game of Erebos has much in common with World of Warcraft and the story highlights the perils of gaming addiction, where the virtual world becomes more important than reality for these kids. It deals with peer pressure and the dangers of trusting unknown figures online. Is Erebos controlled by a person, artificial intelligences or is the game is simply alive?
The first half of the story has far too much in-game action which I found myself skimming over. I probably missed some of the important clues which were quite clever. Perhaps an avid gamer would find it more interesting, if they can drag themselves away from their computer long enough a read a book. The real life interactions are much more interesting and the second half is gripping stuff.
Originally written in German, set in London and translated by an Australian, it is odd that Erebos has an American tone. Kids here do not say mom or cell or gasoline. This edition has not been released by a British publisher and I would hope an editor would make those changes as it really doesn’t sit right. It also puts me off reading other translations by Judith Pattinson. Part of a translator’s job is to make the language fit the location as much as they can in the language they are using. I don’t think British English is too different for an American audience to understand! The fact that it is set in London turns out to be quite important too and I wonder if it will go over the heads of those not familiar with the city.
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