Harlequin Teen (US: 26th August 2014; UK & AU: 1st September 2014)
Buy (US Kindle Edition) Buy (US Hardcover) Buy (UK Kindle Edition) Buy (UK Hardcover) Buy (CA Kindle Edition) Buy (CA Hardcover) Buy (Worldwide)
SPOILER WARNING: This review contains world-building spoilers. If reading this on Goodreads, the spoilers are marked; if reading elsewhere, they are not.
What if a character had a whole life outside of her gamer? Jen Alexander’s The Aftermath takes this on, and also subverts stereotypes linking playing violent games to committing violence in real life.
If you’re a gamer, you may get more out of this book than I did. Mostly, I don’t quite understand. The game is set in 2030s Nashville, but is it really Nashville, or a pseudo-town like the one at the FBI Training Academy?
The chapter on the USA’s “history” (the 2030s, so it’s technically the future for readers, but it’s this story’s “past”) doesn’t seem to make sense. Yes, suspension of disbelief is definitely required here, but this chapter really pushes it.
So there’s screening for a “violence gene” in kids, which leads to Rehabilitation and treatment, but what about adults with the gene? The twenty-hour work-week, in this futuristic America, is designed to lower stress levels by allowing more time for family and recreation, but that doesn’t ring true, either. Would there simply be more shift-workers, so shops can operate while offices are closed? What about school hours? Wouldn’t fewer working hours lead to more domestic violence? (If you’re not at work what’s to distract you, or where’s your safe place?) Fewer hours worked could mean less pay, so financial troubles would still be abundant for many. And the very fact that there’s a “population cap” could be linked to less work, more free time, more conception?
As for the gamers, how aware are they of the situation? You wouldn’t really need a cerebrum chip to play a game, and they would’ve known they’d had surgery to implant it. So do they know that their chip is necessary to control their character – a real PERSON?
There’s a touch of the Special Snowflakes here: Claudia is the face of the game, while Olivia is the wealthiest, most high-profile gamer in the programme. The romance is kept to a minimum – the first kiss doesn’t occur until 60 pages from the novel’s end – but there’s still some eye-rolling to be had at certain lines.
There’s a cliff-hanger so there may be a sequel, which I hope will be from Olivia’s point of view. The Aftermath is often confusing, but always entertaining, with science about which I’d love to learn more.