Zander and his friends at the local gaming hangout, The High Castle, have heard about an augmented reality MMORPG, Mirror, which does Pokémon GO better — maybe a lot better. Look through your phone in Mirror and the pizza place becomes a goblin-infested tavern. You’re not catching Pokémon, you’re trying to stay alive; better still, there’s a rich Bitcoin prize. Zander’s real-world life — his ailing mother, his delivery gig — is not exactly a fast-paced adventure. So, when Mirror drops, he gets in early. Coincidentally, pretty and cool TK seeks his advice about a strange playing card he’s never seen. Stepping into Mirror entangles Zander, his best friend Waylin Strong and their High Castle friends, who find themselves in all-too-real battle for the soul of their world.
Gibson Monk’s novel has top-notch plot design and a compelling subtext. Monk binds quantum entanglement and augmented reality gaming into a satisfying, well-designed premise. A subtext about the evils of conformity creates depth. That the meditation on the conformity’s dangers is explored by a small gaming community that exists within its own cultural lockstep has a fine, uncomfortable irony. Monk’s storytelling is mixed: the structure is solid and the plot complex, but sometimes details overwhelm the action-based piece, skewing the narrative energy. Monk is generous in deep gaming knowledge, literary and technical references and that specific texture enriches the plot. Occasionally, the details in ENTANGLEMENT overbalance, making moments sluggish. Sometimes, when characters narrate story revelations, dramatic moments shift into the expository. That said, there’s solid, satisfying genre story structure here: the slow reveal is well-paced; the scrappy, overmastered characters working against time hit all the right notes.
Well-crafted, believable characters anchor cyberworld stories and Monk’s work shines here, particularly through his characterization of Waylin Strong. Zander, the narrator, is an everyteen: bright, insecure, a little horny, with some family trouble. His friendship with the multidimensional Waylin elevates this book. Waylin’s inherited, mandated bravado sits comfortably with his strength, confidence and loyalty. But Monk also gives Waylin a masked thoughtfulness and a strand of vulnerability that makes him compelling. Zander and Waylin’s friendship — along with Waylin’s sexy, outspoken girlfriend Tonya, who tends to think ahead of the curve — helps the outcome matter more.
Gibson Monk’s ENTANGLEMENT honors gamer culture in a science fiction action piece with a great premise, a good heart and memorable characters.
~Ellen Graham for IndieReader