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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


***User Unfriendly

by Vivian Vande Velde

Reviewed July 7, 2004.
Magic Carpet Books (Harcourt), San Diego, 1991.  244 pages.
Available at Sembach  Middle School Library.

I usually don’t like “Help, I’m trapped in a computer game” sort of books, but Vivian Vande Velde pulls it off with flair.  Like in Heir Apparent (which was written later and is even better), the key to making this seem believable is setting the book a little bit in the future.  Computer games have progressed to the point where they are connected directly to your brain.  You feel, see, hear, taste and smell everything as if you were really there.

Vivian Vande Velde convinces us that there is actual danger in this game by setting up a situation where Arvin and his friends have hacked into a game system.  They never explain quite where they got the equipment to attach the game to their brains, but they do make it clear that they’re using pirated software, so it’s not working exactly correctly.  And there’s no staff on hand to make sure that nothing goes wrong.

The story itself is fun.  Arvin and his friends are in a medieval adventure, and they need to rescue the princess.  He’s got the skills of the warrior elf whose personality he’s taken on.  Right away, they lose two valuable members of their party because of a computer glitch.  Then Arvin’s Mom (who insisted on joining them) gets a headache that can’t be healed.  The only way they can deal with it is to win the game early.

Here’s a fun adventure story with a clever setting.  A nice twist on the typical fantasy tale.

Reader comment:  My 10-year-old son gives this book four stars.  He insisted that I read it in the first place.

Reviews of other books by Vivian Vande Velde:
Heir Apparent
The Rumpelstiltskin Problem
Cloaked in Red
Three Good Deeds
Wizard at Work
A Hidden Magic
A Well-Timed Enchantment
Dragon's Bait
23 Minutes

Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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