Team Phoenix. Baddest group of NPC (Non-player characters) enemies ever developed by man. Combat is their life, and there’s nothing they like better than dishing out punishment on the gamers who enter their realm. At least until Dakota arrives. She’s not like the rest of them. While Mi, Reno, York and the rest focus on being the best bad guys they can be, Dakota is convinced she’s destined for something more.
As the story unfolds, Dakota’s insistence that they’re all more than just programs causes the team to begin questioning their very reason for being. What if she’s right? Are they all slaves, tricked into thinking this is all there is? As the questions mount, the team decides to start looking for the answers. But to get them, they’ll have to cross more worlds than just the digital ones they know.
Game Slaves is a rare bit of YA fiction. It entertains, sure. That’s what a book is supposed to do. But it also encourages the reader to think. What is sentience? What does it mean to be alive? How do you know you’re in control of your own life? While written for younger readers, the story is engaging and adults should find enough to keep them entertained. Skinner does an admirable job of balancing the story. There’s plenty of technobabble, but meanings can be clearly gleaned through context for those not familiar with video games. Even if games aren’t something you’re interested in, the questions that keep arising should keep you turning pages until the end.
In a refreshing departure from most of the YA novels I’ve read, Skinner avoids the love triangle trope. You know the kind. Girl with two guys, one generally wrong for her but oh so tempting, and the other who loves her, is right for her but lacking in that whole bad boy danger thing that causes girls to start wearing “Team <insert generic name>” t-shirts. The women in the book are independent, fierce and completely competent, without having to have a man to complete them. Relationships do form, but they’re incidental instead of being the driving force of the narrative.
All in all, Game Slaves is an enjoyable read that fans of video games will love, but should also keep non-gamers entertained. I’d give it eight stars out of ten. You can pick it up in hardcover at your local book seller, or as a Kindle or Nook book. Give it a try and tell us what you think in the comments. Check out Gard’s website – it’s pretty cool!
*Disclaimer: The publisher sent us a copy of the book for the purpose of review, but I purchased a Kindle copy before it arrived. No compensation of any kind was offered or implied in return for a favorable review.