Title: LifeGames Corporation
Author: Michael Smorenburg
Book procurement: Received from the author for an honest review, and also for Mystery Thriller Week.
Da Vinci Code—meets Paranormal Activity—meets The Matrix.
Ad-agency boss Catherine Kaplan is a danger junkie. Bold and brave, she’s cornered the juiciest prize in the global arena, a LifeGames Corporation contract. But now it’s time to pay the price—a dare to cross the forbidden line. There’s a deal sweetener of course—give a little… and enjoy some intriguing secrets.
The first… Artificial Intelligence runs the LifeGames operation. Key to the success is an automated hypnosis sequence that suppresses each subject’s mind, convincing them that the immersive Virtual Reality crisis they’re about to experience is reality. The training technique has been fabulously profitable, allowing company founder Kenneth Torrington to indulge his every perverse fantasy.
Governments, militaries and business are so reliant on LifeGames that it is said to control mankind’s future. Yet, nobody has realized—a door has opened and a character of unfathomable capacity and unknown motives is looking back, pondering the next move.
Michael and I have sort of a history after I reviewed his novel The S.K.A at Carnarvon – A Trojan Affair. It was a great novel that touched on the very personal topic of religion. So here I was, reading LifeGames with that backdrop, and to my shock and awe the story spins in a completely different direction. Well almost haha, there is still a couple of shots to religion but this isn’t about that. Also, a couple of things from the previous novel that had been of a minor annoyance were addressed in how LifeGames was written and all in all, made for a really great thriller. Michael Smorenburg is climbing up my list of favourite authors.
Virtual Reality is an amazing technology. One which has been on the forefront of human development and hopeful expectancy – to be fully immersed in a different world that looks and feels real is something we all want to exprience. We see it in the anime Sword Art Online, .Hack/Sign, Log Horizon, in movies like Surrogates, Total Recall, Gamer, and of course current technology is getting closer with the Playstation VR, Occulus, Samsung Gear and others. What Michael Smorenburg wrote in LifeGames, and the virtual reality system built is just next level stuff.
We follow Kenneth Torrington, founder and CEO of LifeGames Corporation. He is a pig, a male chauvinist, a manipulative, self-entitled man who only has money and power at the forefront of his ambitions. He has built LifeGames from a number of shady dealings and has wrought immense success. The governments of the world use the Virtual Reality simulation to train individuals. Lawyers, Doctors, Military personnel, and all sorts of people in power are fully immersed in a simulation of real life events that is so realistic, it actually helps prepare them for their job roles. Years of training condescened into mere days or weeks. The technology is brilliant, but of course with great power comes great responsibility.
Catherine Kaplan is a PR who has landed LifeGames as her biggest client ever. She’s a strong woman, bold and daring, but unaware of the dark secrets behind LifeGames and the sweet-talking Ken Torrington. She’s unaware of how close she is to the fire until it’s too late and she’s psychologically, and spiritually, thrown into the deep end. Something sinister lies deep within the system. No one knows what (or whom), and the truth of it will send a chill up your spine.
It’s more than just a story about the repercussions of technology, but perhaps a delve into horror?
The writing is good. Slightly disjointed at times when switching between the different characters but otherwise it flows really well. A few shocking moments keep the story engaging. The characters are written amazingly well, with unique quirks of their own. I had an enjoyable time reading through the novel.
Okay so I wasn’t expecting that end. It seemed to be hinting at one thing, then knocking it out for something else, then twisting it to something else again, then a cliffhanger ending to wrap it all up. I was completely thrown.
As a side note, my previous discussions with author Michael Smorenburg allowed me to glean insights that perhaps someone else would have missed. For example, the heavy skepticism is continuously bashing against the very idea of the supernatural, and the concept of God and how religion is borne, is given logical reasoning while there’s quite a bit of decent Christian philosophy too. I found it quite interesting.
Rating: A solid 4 out of 5
Michael Smorenburg (b. 1964) grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. An entrepreneur with a passion for marketing, in 1995 Michael moved to California where he founded a business consultancy and online media and marketing engine. In 2003 he returned to South Africa where he launched then sold a security company. He now operates a property management company and writes full time.
Michael’s greatest love is for the ocean and the environment. His passion is science, understanding the cosmos, and communicating the urgent need for reason to prevail over superstition.
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