Verdict: GAME OVER toys with discussing the merits and weaknesses of artificial intelligence, but ultimately Derek Edgington can’t decide what kind of story he wants to tell.
Ekko Everlasting has no memories. His consciousness awakens within a virtual reality as a player in a violent battle royale. As the lone survivor and winner of the deathmatch, he’s captured by a small group of rebels who explain that the Sibyl System, a central computer, controls the world and everything in it and Ekko is, inexplicably, humanity’s last hope for survival.
Derek Edgington clearly relishes the freedom to build worlds and he builds many, ranging from planets to cityscapes. Probably his greatest strength as a writer is capturing a sense of place and he spares no details as he takes us through Ekko’s universe. He also employs a clever gimmick that aligns with his gaming premise: at the conclusion of certain chapters the reader can choose Ekko’s next move. No matter the choice the story reaches the same path, and the brief derailments add nothing to the plot or character development, but it’s a crafty idea nonetheless.
Where GAME OVER wavers is in its characters, who are neither developed nor even necessary most of time. As a sufferer of amnesia, Ekko can be forgiven for his lack of background, but the sudden friendships he makes throughout the book lack context and depth. His quick bond with an avatar named Ridley Scott is unexpected, and a late-developing romance comes out of left field, in part because the love interest doesn’t appear until halfway through the book. In fact, so many characters materialize only to die or disappear that it’s hard to keep their names straight or remember why they are there in the first place. For some reason, Edgington dedicates two chapters to the point of view and backstory of two characters who, compared to several other characters, barely contribute to Ekko’s odyssey.
Though GAME OVER flirts with some interesting ideas about sacrifice and artificial intelligence, it ultimately suffers because Edgington can’t decide what story he wants to tell. The majority of the book focuses too much on a series of Hunger Games-esque battles to the death that push the Sibyl System and Ekko’s quest to destroy it to the back-burner. Some of these issues–plus an inconsistent voice throughout–could have been avoided with the help of an editor, but it’s unclear that Edgington even wanted to focus on Ekko’s central quest anyway.
~Courtney Ryan for IndieReader