Books and games. These are my life. If I’m not reading, I’m gaming. I will occasionally watch anime, but I prefer ones with a game-world theme, such as Sword Art Online, or SAO for short. The premise behind SAO is a piece of technology known as Full-Dive, in which the player is entirely immersed in the game. They are actually facing down the monster. This is achieved by a helmet which the player wears, which then intercepts all the neural messages being sent from the brain to your various body parts, and projects them to your avatar in-game.

I only mention all this to make it easier to explain a book I just read called LifeGames Corporation by Michael Smorenburg, which takes this technology to a new level. If you have read this little gem of a mindbender, feel free to skip ahead a bit. If not, then get comfy.

This is the story of Catherine Kaplan, an Ad-agency boss and adrenaline Junkie, who has just landed one whopper of a contract with a company that, is fast rising to the top in the technology field. This is the story, too, of Kenneth Torrington, founder, owner and mastermind behind The LifeGames Corporation, and Catherine’s employer. This is no ordinary tech business; this is a training facility for everyone from heads of state to lawyers, to the military. This is all made possible thanks to a few “small” innovations.

First is the Artificial Intelligence which runs the entire operation. Next is the automated hypnosis sequence which convinces each subject’s mind that what they about to experience during their Virtual Full-Dive is entirely real. This combination has made Torrington incredibly wealthy and incredibly powerful; clearly a man used to always getting his own way. Isn’t that always a good combination? It did Joffrey well, right? No? Oh well…

Unbeknownst to anyone else, even Torrington, there is a third entity at play, and I mean that quite literally, but in the worst possible ways. We start off with nothing. No info. De nada. This is exactly where Ms. Kaplan is, so there’s equal footing. Mr Smorenburg is able to relentlessly and unceasingly maintain this pace filling things in for us as the characters find them out, leaving you able to see only a few lines in the distance. He also very cleverly raises some ethical issues with regard to technology; are we advancing to quickly? Do we fully and totally understand the devices we come into contact with on a daily basis, and do we understand the implication of introducing them to society? Things seem great for Torrington at first, and Kaplan seems incredibly intrigued at the prospects of the technology that has been developed, and at the chance to be on the inside track. Torrington then makes a proposition; why not try it yourself? It all tends to go a bit awry when one of their VR training sessions ends in a bit of a catastrophe. The subject appears to be in a coma, he is ranked quite high in the military, and he’s Russian military. Big problems if the patient doesn’t recover. Worse still if he does. From this point forward things keep getting worse, and the book takes on a dark turn, luring us deeper and deeper, wondering what is going on yet unable to stop.

 Gradually as the story unfolds, you find yourself being pulled into a world of science, philosophy, religion, and mad, craven desire, a world from which you might not want to return. This book is a unique blend of “Angels and Demons” and “The Matrix”. Definitely look him up on Facebook or else check out his website.
A good reason to read this book is that not only is it a good story with an interesting twist, but it makes you think, and not in terms of what is going to happen next in the book, but rather what is going to happen next to humanity. There are very, very few books in this world that resonate with me, and this is definitely one them.

About the author: 

Bookseller, Avid reader, fanatic gamer, and now a book reviewer, Mathew happens to live in whatever book he happens to be reading at the moment. Absolute favourites include Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Alice In Wonderland, The Belgariad, and The Demon Cycle.