About the book:
When hydrologists inscribe the consciousness of a human mind onto a single drop of water, a Revelation sweeps the land. The wealthy race to upload their minds into self-contained virtual realities nicknamed Aquariums. In these containers people achieve every hope, dream, and desire. But governments wage war for control of the technology. Terrorist attacks cause massive destruction. The Aquariums fail. Inscribed human minds leech into the water cycle, wreaking havoc.
Street gangs rule the cities in the three years since the fall of civilization. Sixteen-year-old Cami and her younger sister Alby struggle to survive. Every drop of untreated water puts their lives in peril. Caught and imprisoned by soldiers who plan to sell them into slavery, Cami will do anything to escape and rescue her sister. Even if it means leaving the real word for a life in the realms, a new game-like reality created by the hydrologists for the chosen few.
But life in the realms isn’t as simple as it seems. Magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as the sisters navigate their new surroundings. And they encounter more dangerous enemies than any they faced in the real world.
Time to play the game.
Starter Zone is almost two books in one and has one of the most unique concepts I've ever come across (the idea of uploading consciousness into water-based computer memory/storage rather than silicone based computer storage). The first half of the book starts like a familiar post apocalyptic survival story with Cami taking care of her younger sister Alby. Quickly, however, the story shifts into a fantastical role playing game that will please lovers of World of Warcraft and the like.
Remember that really old Reese's Peanut butter Cups commercial? "Two great tastes that taste great together"? I can imagine the characters in the commercial for Starter Zone saying: "You got your LitRPG in my Post-apocalyptic dystopia!" and "No, you got your Post-apocalyptic dystopia in my LitRPG!" Either that, or I'm picturing Marie and Donny Osmond singing: "I'm a little bit sci-fi, and I'm a little bit epic fantasy..." (That's an ancient song reference right there. I swear I'm not really THAT old.) It's a strange combination, yet somehow Ms. Pavesic makes them work together rather successfully.
I'm not a gamer, although I have plenty of friends who are and enough pop culture knowledge to understand the concept of RPG games, so once Cami and her sister leave the real world and end up in the make-believe world, I understood the terminology and what was going on, for the most part. However, if you're not a gamer and not familiar with RPG terminology, some of the details and world-building might loose you.
I had some questions about the hydrology technology and doubts about the lack of safeguards put into place by the original scientists, but putting those questions aside, the concept made for an interesting social conundrum and utterly unique dangers that I haven't encountered before. For example: rain is a danger, not because it has toxic chemicals, but because it has the potential to infect people with other people's consciousness, which can be a confusing, disorienting and sometimes enraging situation (turning people into something akin to vicious zombies).
The LitRPG section of the book focuses heavily on establishing the world in which Cami and her sister will be living, so it's heavy on world-building. I enjoy the concept and the characters a lot, although I did find myself skimming a bit over the sections describing when Cami's and Alby's new powers/abilities were achieved and unlocked as if I were actually playing a game. I think this is a detail that gamers will love, however.
There were a lot of plot links and a few characters introduced in this novel that were not resolved or fully fleshed out, but I'm 100% certain they will be continued in the next book to come. The ending kind of left us hanging, but again, I'm sure that will be resolved in future books. I would have preferred something that was designed to stand a little more on it's own, but I trust Ms. Pavesic enough to put out the next book, so I won't let the lack of an immediate resolution bother me too much.
I definitely recommend this books to fans of RPG games, fans of epic fantasy, and fans of post apocalyptic YA type stories.
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About the Author:
Chris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends. She occasionally blogs at http://www.chrispavesic.com