If you have been following my blogs, you know that I challenged myself this year to read several books by lesser-known/indie writers. I would then post my reviews here online. If you are unfamiliar with how I’m going about this process, check out my initial blog that explains the whole process:
Today I am judging Justus R. Stone’s Revelation Game
With the aid of fully-immersive gaming technology, teenager Tyler Drake plays an MMO videogame called Revelations. The game allows players to choose either the side of the angels in Heaven or the side of the demons in Hell, and Tyler plays a demon with the user handle ‘Shamshiel.’ Thanks to the technology used to play the game, players feel as if they are actually inside the virtual environments. The game even uses the real world to create virtual environments to provide a more authentic look, but gamers are not allowed to game in locations too close to their actual homes.
Due to some bad decisions, Tyler uses a modification to hack the system to let him play a mission that takes place in his own neighborhood. During the mission, someone Tyler knows personally is killed in the game. When Tyler wakes up to go to school the next day, he discovers that the person has been killed in real life as well. Tyler freaks out about whether the game is real or not. Administrators of the game contact Tyler and give him the ominous option to either play an assigned mission or to end his gameplay permanently. Fearful, Tyler decides to play the mission. With some heavenly assistance from someone else who has come to terms with the game being real, Tyler is able to play the game the way he wants to play it, and not the way that the game might force him to play it.
I give this story 3 out of 5 stars. Conceptually, it wasn’t horrible, but it really wasn’t anything more than just okay.
First of all, this story is around 51 pages. The copy I downloaded didn’t have this cover, so I didn’t realize it was a novella. On the plus side, though, if you are looking for something short and kind of sci-fi/fantasy to read, you can get through this one in no time at all.
In terms of plot, the story followed a typical plot cycle that introduced the characters, got you interested in the plot device of the video game, brought you to the climax of the ultimate moral choice Tyler would make, and then showed you the results of his choices. Everything was presented clearly and tied up at the end. Personally, I found the plot to be predictable
Surprisingly, the character development worked beautifully in this piece. Sometimes it’s difficult in a shorter story to get a feel for someone, but Stone chose to focus on the internal thoughts of Tyler, which immediately conveyed his character. The other characters in the story were deliberately archetypal, but that kept the plot moving. Additionally, since the whole story focused on Tyler and Tyler’s decisions, you really didn’t need to know that much about the other characters to understand what was going on.
Grammar and Technical Issues
There were typos, missed words, and wrong words in the text. Not so many that I couldn’t get through it, but noticeable. As always, I write and edit professionally, so I notice errors more quickly than most people. Still, I think one more round with an editor would’ve made this piece look more professional.
Thankfully, there were no real distractions in the story. The concept kept me engaged enough to want to find out how it ended, even though I had my suspicions that it would end the way it did. Going into the story, you had to accept a somewhat futuristic gaming technology, but since we already have immersive gaming tech, this super next generation version didn’t feel that out of place.
I do have one nitpicky comment.
Tyler himself states that he’s addicted to the game, and that he plays it instead of getting a good night’s sleep. That lets the reader know that Tyler is a gamer geek, and that he goes to school and comes home to play video games. However, there is a subplot going on in the story about how Tyler’s mother has been fighting with depression after the death of her husband. Tyler undoubtedly uses gaming as an escape to avoid dealing with his grief issues. He’s also had to take on the role of the adult, since his father’s death has left his mother broken. There’s an implication that Tyler works some sort of part-time job, possibly to bring in extra cash to pay the bills, although this is never clearly explained. Therefore, the reader is supposed to believe that Tyler has the time to go to high school, work, make meals, and do some chores around the house, plus he still has the time and energy to play this game. To me, that is a bit of a stretch.
As Tyler’s final moral choice ties in with the decision to help or hurt his mother, I understand why Stone has created this broken parent figure plot device. It pulls at the heartstrings of the reader to see a gamer geek like Tyler be forced into a pseudo-adult position just to survive the situation. Nevertheless, I think the idea of Tyler doing all of this and having a part-time job just didn’t work for me. Yes – Tyler has that seemingly endless teenager energy, and maybe I could acknowledge that fact to excuse him burning the candle at both ends, but this detail about his character stuck out like a sore thumb. There are other aspects that already make Tyler look like a dutiful son, and I thoroughly enjoyed the touches of bitterness at his absentee mother, since it emphasizes those mixed emotions that death causes. Ultimately, I think Stone kept adding details to the character of Tyler to make sure his point as the author came across clearly, but instead it added a few dimensions that didn’t quite fit.