I picked it up off the new books display as I was going out the door. Really, this random reading is fun. You never know what you're going to end up with and another of my random reads, The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda, has been attracting student interest, though so far only the girls. Maybe it's the cute guy on the cover who looks a bit like David Boreanaz from Buffy and Angel.
The premise of this one is somewhat The Matrix meets Alex Rider. The hero, Michael, lives in a future where everybody has an EarCuff that lets you bring up a virtual computer screen and, for fun, you can play games on the VirtNet, a virtual reality simulation with the emphasis on "reality". You can eat, sleep, have adventures and even die, though not permanently unless you dig out your "Core" deliberately and use the virtual world to commit suicide. You wake up in the comfort of your Coffin, which looks after you while you're in the Sleep and stimulates your nerves into pain if you hurt yourself out there. Michael has been picked up by VNS, the VirtNet security staff, who want him to track down an evil gamer who has been hacking rather too deeply and doing dreadful things to other gamers. He must go truly deep into the virtual world, accompanied by his friends Bryson and Sarah, whom he has never met in the Wake(the real world).
The mind boggles at the thought of what might happen in a world where you could go into a virtual reality so detailed that you could practically live there. Think of the implications not only for leisure and education but for much darker things - prison, for example, addiction, porn... The only thing that might prevent usage for some things is that in the novel the Coffin is highly expensive; you wouldn't want to blow the government budget on mass torture, for example. But it wouldn't take long to develop a cheap version. And virtual prison staff would still be cheaper than humans who need paying, feeding and time off.
And what would you do if the power went out while half the human race was in a fantasy word somewhere? Someone has to stay in the real world to keep it going, which is why I never quite believe those films and books where everybody is in a permanent VR world or stumbling down the street wearing VR goggles.
But this is a good, fast-paced book that you might be able to persuade boys to read ( o, joy! a book that isn't girls-only!)though it might be too hard for reluctant readers, who need something thinner, with simpler language. Still, a good book for those boys who are always playing Halo and other such shoot-em-up games - if you can get them off the real computer into a fictional one...