The annual school play is about to broadcast its live VR production across the nation. But it’s not the cheesy lines or epic boss fight that has Seth Wright worried; though they don’t help. Somewhere in the virtual reality algorithm something sinister has taken root jeopardizing his friends lives. Throwing the rules out the window, Seth ventures deeper into the fantastical world to thwart a N00B thief, rescue an evil dragon from tight living quarters, and deny a drop dead gorgeous princess her kiss.
The Game: Beta Testing is a non-romantic dark fantasy short story in the Awakening: Fractured Memories series.
This prequel kept me endlessly on my toes, trying desperately to distinguish reality from some other force in play. The character of Seth is heroic without being too brash or overt, seeming to be forced into that role, rather than actively seeking it. Already there is a love interest in position, instantly put under pressure by Nicole’s valiant attempts to claim Seth.
The fantasy element of the ‘play’ that the students are doing is genius, taking part with real people in a digital world. I struggled to know what was play and what was real and I believe that was the intention of the author. I loved the honesty of the characters, especially Astral, whose innocence and underdog casting I was immediately drawn to. William on the other hand is a complete liability and produces the overwhelming urge in the reader, to shake him. There was clever humour there, which I appreciated, but underneath there was an invoking of fear because I couldn’t see where the author was leading me. I will definitely look forward to the next book.Ngaruawahia Girl
The Game: Beta Testing Excerpt
The auditorium was buzzing with nervous energy and excitement. Students were dressed in various costumes suited for their predetermined roles, while dramatically rehearsing lines. Every year, like clockwork, the theatrical entertainment festivities were put on and aired across the nation. Funding was provided to the schools based on the number of viewers they manage to capture during a two-hour timeframe.
Since entertainment was rare and considered by the former regime to be a time waster, this special event was often the only time the average person could lose themselves in a different world, as long as it followed strict guidelines and government approved scripts.
In past years, the Academy pushed out, on average, three teams. This year, though, there was an inundation of willing participants. This could be due, in large part, to Seth’s involvement in this years’ production.
He had been asked to participate in previous years and had always managed to find a scapegoat, but, this year, he took the bullet for a friend. Sadly, the sentiment backfired when both of them ended up punished, because someone like him ‘should know better than to stick his neck out for trouble makers’.
To make matters only mildly more annoying, he later learned that his friend had been innocent of the crime and had been covering for another friend. That friend, jealous of the attention that the punished were receiving, joined the troupe in order to show off how amazing he was.
“Got all of your lines memorized, Mr. Hero?” William chided, nudging Seth in the ribs. William was shorter than Seth by foot. He had wild brown hair, which he was intentionally growing out to spite his father. His dishevelled appearance, he felt, would give him that bad-boy look that girls would find irresistible.
He had to commend William on his attention to such details. He seemed to instinctively know what it took to get what he wanted. He, on the other hand, felt like he was constantly guessing at people’s motivations. At this time, he focused on doing the best that he could and maybe he might have a bright future ahead of him.
Seth had dark, shoulder length hair, which was within acceptable parameters of the school code. He had an athletic build and only in the recent years had he begun building muscles over his otherwise wiry frame. He was quite pleased that no one would have thought him as ever being the sickly child that he had been, always just one step ahead of death. For the time being, he was healthy and strong, though he feared that his old friend would one day return.
Seth nodded as he looked at himself in the mirror and adjusted his costume. “Nicole must have wanted to practice that kissing scene with you like a million times. You think Astral was jealous?”
“How could she be? She didn’t turn up at any of the practices.” He thought she was a little more responsible than that. He had taken the time to practice his lines and dedicate them to memory, and paid careful attention to the direction offered by his team leader.