Saturday, February 09, 2013

Online Gaming Meets the Apocalypse in New Dystopian Thriller

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Pandora Walker's as plugged in as the next teenager.  Like all her friends, the 17-year-old spends hours texting on her cell phone, scrolling through Facebook updates, and playing her favorite virtual-reality games.  But when her laptop starts interacting with her—well, that's when things get really weird.  
It all begins when Pandora opens a mysterious e-mail, supposedly from her long-lost father.  Downloading the included attachments triggers a chilling message from her favorite online game:  Beat the Game.  Save the World.  Pandora's sure the whole thing is just some elaborate prank, but when the Internet crashes, the phone lines quit working and cities around the nation go dark, she's convinced that this is no joke.  She has to believe what she's reading on her computer screen—in ten days, life as she knows it will end.  The only way to save it?  Beat a terrifying, very real version of Pandora's Box, the most popular virtual reality game in the world.  Pandora hasn't even mastered the original—how is she supposed to conquer this one?  It's impossible, but she has to play.  And win.

When the FBI shows up on her doorstep, accusing Pandora of cyber terrorism, she realizes she's going to have to save the world on the run.  Along with her neighbors, two stepbrothers she barely knows, Pandora's racing across the South trying to figure out game clues that are astonishingly personal.  With chaos reigning on the streets, surviving in the real world's becoming just as dangerous as fighting monsters in the game.  Even if she can level up enough to beat Pandora's Box, she might not survive looters, street gangs and the government agents who won't give up until they have her behind bars.  As the world falls to pieces around her, Pandora plays as well as she can, as fast as she can—but it may not be enough to save herself, let alone the planet, from total annihilation.

Although the plot of Doomed, a new YA dystopian thriller by Tracy Deebs, gets confusing, it's engrossing enough to keep readers engaged.  The gaming aspect keeps the story (somewhat) fresh, although there's plenty of the same ole, same ole as far as dystopian elements go.  I found Pandora sympathetic, but annoying, especially since her affections kept flip-flopping between her two travel companions.  Fickle much, Miss Walker?  Also, the story gets a little far-fetched (okay, a lot far-fetched).  Overall, though, I found Doomed to be a fast-moving, action-packed thriller compelling enough that I digested it pretty much in one sitting.  It didn't bowl me over or anything, but I still enjoyed the read.     

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a bit of The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken and Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon)  

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language (half a dozen F-bombs, plus milder invectives), violence and sexual inneundo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-galley of Doomed (via NetGalley) from the generous folks at Bloomsbury.  Thank you!


  1. Sounds like a good book when a reader is looking for a fast paced thrilling read. Not sure I'll pick it up though.

  2. You have been nominated for an award. Come check it out...


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