Friday, 30 November 2012

Review: Metawars 2: The Dead Are Rising by Jeff Norton

The Changsphere offers a safe haven for the Uploaded, and with more processing power than the Southern Corner could ever offer, the Uploaded begin to grow, develop, and yearn to be alive again. With the Changsphere offering competition to the Metasphere, more and more avatars take up residency in it. But the Uploaded begin to prey on live avatars, infecting them, and their users, with their personalities and becoming reborn in the real world. The dead are rising. 

Now reborn into the real world, the once dead avatars will not let anyone shut down the Changsphere - the source of their rebirth. Meanwhile, Jonah, Sam, and Axel struggle to keep the Metasphere safe from Granger's assault on the Western Corner, which is housed in the old subway lines under New York City. But Jonah struggles with whether they are doing the right thing: in fighting Granger, they face a more dangerous virtual world, where millions of Uploaded now roam freely, stalking users for their virtual avatars and their real bodies.

Why does the phrase 'more of the same' seem to sound more negative than positive. In my review, I described Fight For The Future, the first book in Jeff Norton's Metawars series, as a "super fast-paced and well plotted story that sucks readers in from the very first chapter" and the sequel is, to coin a phrase, more of the same. So I put it to you that in this case, 'more of the same' is far from negative and is in fact high praise indeed.

The story picks up very soon after the climactic finale of the first book, with Jonah and Sam still in Australia. Jonah is spending a huge amount of time inside the newly formed Changsphere, enjoying the company of his father, who, like the rest of the Uploaded, has somehow recovered most of his memories. However, Jonah very quickly discovers that there is something not quite right with the Uploaded, and at Gamescon, now newly relocated from the Metasphere to the Changsphere, everything hits the fan. The Uploaded, with their newly regained faculties, now realise that they are dead in the real world, and they are hungry for life. And the only way to get it is to consume the avatar of a living person, and in doing so usurp that person's body in real life.

Whilst all this is going on, Matthew Granger is up to his old tricks, and this time he is out for revenge. Having escaped from the Guardians as the end of Fight For The Future, he has managed to make his way to Manhattan Island, now an independent republic, and a safe-haven for anyone who has enough money to be able to afford to live there. His solution to the Changsphere is an extreme one, with little care for the avatars that have moved over to the rival virtual world, and it isn't long before Jonah and Sam find themselves heading for Manhattan to attempt an invasion of the Western Corner, although the real world journey from Australia, via Hong Kong, is fraught with danger.

As with the previous instalment, The Dead Are Rising, is much more than just a science fiction action adventure story. It raises a number of question regarding identity, and Jonah continues to find his conscience twisted and torn as he struggles with the various moral dilemmas that come his way. These books are ideal for book groups as they would encourage young people to debate on a number of issues related to technology, virtual worlds, global corporations and eco-terrorism.

Metawars: The Dead Are Rising is already available in book stores, and the good news is that the third in the series, Battle of the Immortal, is less than six months away, with a provisional release date of 2nd May. My thanks go to Orchard Books for sending me a copy to read and review.

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