Wednesday, March 07, 2007

World Leader Pretend

James Bernard Frost

This is a big, ambitious first novel by a guy who attended my MFA program – it was his thesis, originally. So, you know, grad school pride. Hooray!

The book is about a group of gamers who retreat into the virtual reality world in order to escape their real-world problems; real-world problems ultimately intrude, as they do, and their interconnected lives end up being the key.

The style, in the beginning, that I had a real problem with – a seemingly unending stylistic repetitiveness that was meant to be dramatic but drove me slowly mad and made this so hard to plow through – eventually tapers off, and the story becomes absorbing and fast paced. Ultimately, the main character, Xerxes, and his twin, puzzled me. His reality is, in the end (and for most of the middle) far less gripping than the lives of the other characters – I found not a lot of sympathy for a failed dotcommer, and did not find him nearly as special or interesting as his twin sister seemed to, especially compared to the lives of the young, fierce girl stuck in Thailand, the paraplegic boy, the guy stationed in Antarctica. Xerxes' difficulties come across as self-absorption, which ends up being less than compelling.

But in the end, Frost pulls it all together in an admirable way, there are some interesting surprises, and the book ultimately works.


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