In the dark amusement arcades of the 1980s, a new game is discreetly appearing - Polybius. It's addictive fun... but the machine mysteriously disappears as swiftly as it arrived. So too does the one kid who claimed the highest ever score... never to be heard from again... Over thirty years later, computer games have moved on - but the players are as keen as ever. SAM RAYNER is one such boy. His dreams of being a professional gamer, a virtual athlete on a million dollar contract -- dreams that are scoffed at by his twin sister, REBECCA. She secretly enjoys playing games, but would never openly admit that to her "geeky" brother -- that is until Sam wins an online competition, giving the entire family a free holiday at a luxury hotel. But it's not just a chance for his family to take a pampered break, it's a special games tournament and a chance for Sam to chase his dream. Or that's what he thinks - until he discovers a game has been mysteriously downloaded to his mobile phone. A game called Polybius - a name from the darkest reaches of urban legends.
Three was the magic number for Bob Dorough, Blind Melon and De La Soul, and it's also the magic number for these new style Book Zone reviews, as part of my seemingly endless quest for brevity when reviewing. So, here are three reasons to read Polybius - The Urban Legend by Andy Briggs:
1. The concept
I am always keen to promote anything new that may encourage a child to pick up a book and read it. Whilst working very well as a standalone book, Polybius - The Urban Legend is linked to a spy training game created by Polybius Games that started life being offered though hotels around the world (including Center Parcs and Walt Disney World, Florida). The game was next provided to schools across Scotland, and is endorsed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority as a learning platform and a White Paper has since been written on the benefits of the game by one of the worlds leading experts in game based technology. The book itself, is a spin-off from this game, but readers can also download an app to their smartphones which allows them to experience and augmented reality feature. You can find out more about the game at www.spy-quest.com.
2. The action
Anyone who has read one of Andy Briggs's previous books will know how good he is at writing fast-paced action stories. The plot of Polybius - The Urban Legend is fast and furious, and and from the moment main character Sam Rayner is drawn into the mystery it doesn't let up until the very last chapter.
3. The theme
The story's link to gaming is not just though the Spy Quest game. Sam Rayner is a gamer and dreams of making money out of his passion by turning professional. Sam wins an online competition which just may make this dream become reality, although there is a lot more to this prize than he initially realises. In a similar vein to stories like The Last Starfighter and Ernest Cline's Armada, the game is being used to find young people with certain skills and gifts so that they can be trained, in this case, as spies. Linking stories to gaming could be a great way of dragging gamer kids away from their consoles and in to the pages of a book. Older gamers may already be aware of the real life Polybius story - an urban legend that, again like Ernest Cline, Andy Briggs uses to establish his plot.
Polybius - The Urban Legend was originally only available online, but I believe that it has now been released throughout book stores in the Uk as well. My thanks go to the author for sending me a copy of the book.