Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized – even visits with Andrew.
Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.
Nirvana is a fast-paced, page-turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so. Are you ready to enter Nirvana?
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by J.R. Stewart
Blue Moon Publishers
November 10, 2015
Nirvana is a post-apocalyptic, eco sci-fi that explores some interesting ideas about the direction our planet might be headed in natural, political, and virtual environments. Larissa Kenders is one of the middling-lucky few to have a reasonably comfortable existence in the Post-Extinction world, but when Andrew, her fiancé, disappears one day, she discovers things she never expected and finds herself caught up in a conspiracy.
I think the highlight of this story is the science of one, the bee extinction and its aftermath, and two, the virtual reality world. Of these two, the plight of the bees was most scary, particularly since most of the results portrayed in the book could really happen and have been proposed and possible outcomes by scientists. I could tell the author researched the potential impact of such a thing, and I found the source of the extinction in this book chilling. Corporate politics and natural science, mixed with dystopian class extremes, made this book a fascinating read.
As for the virtual reality, I enjoyed the descriptions of how it might work and the hints of tech that could upload a person’s consciousness into that world. The story proposes some other advances even more mind boggling, begging the question of would I sign up for such a thing under the promise of immortality, or would I choose the normal progression of life, age and eventual death. I also found myself wondering how I might choose to spend my time in such a future. Would I spend my meager earnings on time in Nirvana, and if so, would I be like Kenders, spending such minutes and hours in natural settings, remembering? Or would I be like those who explored the absurd, growing gills to swim in the ocean like a fish, or learning to fly like a bird? I certainly hope I wouldn’t be like the leaders of Hexagon. And that isn’t even going into the Bubble and its artificial comforts. So much to consider. I loved this.
Another one of the things I like about this story is the main character’s strength and determination. She’s facing some crazy odds and pretty much can’t trust anyone, but she takes calculated risks and keeps to her goal of finding Andrew. She does some pretty daring things and keeps her head.
On the other hand, Larissa’s over the top eco activist past and corny, horrible song lyrics were groan worthy. One was basically a list of random things that are gone and missed. Perhaps if heard as a song, the words would be good, but not as text in a book, and it didn’t help that the lyrics are repeated everywhere in the book that Kenders happens to be singing them. Once was enough. I also lost track of how many times her raids on research labs were referenced, both as part of building her past, but also to explain her connections to some other characters.
And one thing I found skim worthy was the memorial service at the end. Not buying it. Way too over the top. The level of mourning in general, the ceremony, and the source of most of the eulogy are just totally not worth reading. I’d recommend skipping that chapter entirely because it didn’t add anything useful to the story. The grief is well captured in the previous chapter.
I noticed some rough edges here and there and a few scenes that don’t quite seem necessary to the plot, but the plot itself and where it’s heading are solid. The pacing is good, and the use of language is easy to process without being too simple. The length of this book is satisfyingly long, but not too drawn out, a good length.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty good book and I liked how it made me think and feel right there in the thick of things. I felt empathetic to Kenders through most of it, minus those things I’ve already mentioned, and consider her to be a solid, strong female character. I very much look forward to seeing what the next book in this series holds. I would recommend this book to folks who love eco sci-fi or post-apocalyptic stories.
I’m writing this review for a revised ARC that I found substantially different from the one I read just about a month earlier from NetGalley. The story has nearly doubled in size, much of that added in at the beginning and end, focusing on character development and nailing down the plot of the book, two things that were somewhat lacking in that last version. So all that being said, I tried to limit my review to the story as it is, rather than comparing it to the story that it was.
The review copy of this book was supplied by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
About J.R. Stewart
J.R. Stewart has worked on many corporate projects throughout a prolific IT academic and consulting career, and is involved with many confidential virtual reality projects. After working on advanced “VR” technologies for over a decade, Stewart grew concerned about the implications of this work and the possible psychological effects that it may have on its users.