Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: Gamers, Frags and Coders, Gamers Series 1-3 by Thomas K. Carpenter

Review: Gamers, Frags and Coders, Gamers Series 1-3 by Thomas K. Carpenter

In full disclosure I won the second book in this series (Frags) in a Goodreads giveaway.

Book One Gamers

Book Synopsis: Life is a game, no REALLY it is. The concept of this book is fascinating; everyone is constantly plugged into a computer game known as LifeGames. You can earn points by doing chores, playing computer games that have been designed to give you life skills or by doing well in tests at school. Points can be used to purchase the latest fashions or designing your home. Only the top scoring gamers get to go on to university and the best jobs, everyone else gets reassigned. It reminded me somewhat of what life would be like to be in “The Sims”. The story soon starts to unfold and a government conspiracy is discovered. The last part of the book has the characters running around inside a computer game on an adventure where they have to battle against giants, specters and a dragon and solve puzzles in order to complete their quest, now that’s a final exam I would have loved to have participated in!

Richi's Review: There is a huge amount of world building in this book especially at the start. The first part of the book there was so much world building going on that I was just getting my head around one concept when another one was introduced, it settles down after a while and gets on with the story. I did enjoy all the world building, it just seemed so crammed together at the start it could get confusing.

It was fun to see references to some classic games such as Mario, Monkey Island and Leisure Suit Larry.

Sometimes the story itself was confusing, mostly it was due to the world language, they have a number of words that the use that aren’t used in the real world. But some sequences were just not well written and hard to follow.

The main character is very well written, she’s your typical YA heroine. Strong willed, talented, kind to her friends but fierce to her enemies. The other characters are good as well, with their own personalities, although most of them only appeared in small parts of the book and didn’t really get much time to be developed before they left the story and a new group of characters came in.

Book Two Frags

**** ½ stars

Book Synopsis: Book two picks up a short time after the end of the first book. Gabby has fled the GSA and joined up with the Frags along with her new friend Mouse. Gabby is determined to find out what happens to those that fail LifeGame, which will allow her to rescue her best friend Zaela. Gabby, Mouse and the Frags hatch a plan to escape from the lands controlled by the GSA and into an area know as the Freelands, a place made up of many groups who live life free from LifeGame. The group soon discovers that not everyone is friendly in the Freelands and they have to deal with a terrifying religious group that controls its members minds, the dreaded Blood Farm where anyone passing through must pay a Blood Toll, and the all too familiar Game Train where winning games is the only way off. All the while they are pursued by the Coder and his troops who will not allow Gabby and the Frags to escape them. Rumours of the Southland planning on attacking the GSA begin to rise and war seems inevitable, unfortunately the answers to Gabby’s questions seem to lay in that direction.

Richi's Review: We learn a lot more about the world in this book, most of it about what happens in the Freelands and how the computer systems work throughout the world as a whole. The balance between world building, story and character development is much better in this book and isn’t as crammed as it was in book one.

The writing style is stronger in this book and it was less confusing than book one. Partly because I have become more used to the worlds language and rules, but also because the descriptions are clearer. There was an overuse of simile in the first few chapters including the bizarre “Gabby had come to despise the hovercraft with guns hanging like dogs in heat.” But the rest of the book has a much better limited use of it.

Gabby is great again and her personality is strong and enjoyable. She undergoes quite a development during this book, mostly centered around the fact she becomes a very reluctant leader of the group. The Frags characters are also expanded on during this book and we get to learn a lot more about all of them. They are all are enjoyable to read about Michael who is Gabby’s love interest, the simple-minded but powerful Drogan, Milton with his smart ass comments, the quiet but clever Mouse and the mysterious Celia. Drogan is probably my favourite of the secondary characters despite being having a childish mind his strong personality and good nature shine through.

The balance between adventure in the real world and the various virtual ones is perfect and cleverly done.

There are several twists at the end of the book; this is excellent as it is unlikely a reader will fully guess all of them.

Book Three Coders
Book Synopsis: Gabby begins the book working for the Coders, after an attack from the Southlands, Gabby is sent there as a spy. We get to see some of the groups that make up this land and learn that they would probably be even worse GSA. Gabby ends up in the clutches of an evil queen. Gabby along with some of her Frag friends Michael, Mouse, Milton (still in his female body) and her new friend and old enemy Avony are thrown into a evil twist of LifeGames.

Richis: Review: There is a mix of real life sequences and computer game scenes although the balance isn't as good as the previous books, as the computer game part is just in a big chuck in the middle of the book. It isn't badly written just all in one go.

The world is developed and we learn a lot about the Southlands and a little more about the GSA. One of the nice things about this book is that both groups look pretty bad and it is hard to pick a side who you want to win.

The characters are great, Gabby character develops and she gets better. One of the great things about her is that she is not your typical rebel teen trying to overthrow an evil regime, she is just a kid who wants to find her lost friend and keep her friends alive. Michael is getting sicker and weaker and you can feel Gabbys heartache to see him this way. Mouse is still smart but quiet, she seems to have developed a relationship with Michael while Gabby has been away, and Gabby is torn between renewing her relationship with Michael and letting him be happy. Milton has mellowed somewhat since getting his new body, but still has plenty of smart ass comments to make. I was sad that Drogan wasn't in this book much as he was one of my favourite characters, Celia also has a very small role.

The writing style is just as good as the second book, the descriptions are clear and it is easy to follow what is happening, although a couple of computer scenes that have crazy physics things going on were a little confusing. The balance between world building, story and character development is perfect.

There are a number of twists near the end of the book again, this is great because even if you guess some of them there are still somethings that you didn't see coming.

Overall Review: I really enjoyed this series, the story and plot is strong and the characters are excellent and undergo an interesting development. The idea is very original and presented well. A good understanding of computer games and systems probably helps understand this book but isn't esential. I would recomend getting and reading all three books at once because the storyline continues through all three heavily and the first two books end in cliff hangers.

I read the Nook versions for books one and three, and there were a couple of problems with it. Firstly the page count was messed up, whenever I turned a page the page number went up 2-4 pages, it wasn’t skipping pages, but the count was not correct. Also the index doesn’t recognize the chapters so you couldn’t find them easily or know how many pages were left in a chapter.

An excellent and original series that is suitable for fans of fantasy, science-fiction and/or dystopian novels.

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