Author: J.R. Stewart
Publisher: Blue Moon Publisher
Genre: Dystopian Mystery/Thriller
Source: NetGalley Ebook for Review
I really wanted to enjoy this book, I really did. But I could not. There was just too much wrong with it. The concept was great and the characters had potential, but it just did not pull through for me, sadly.
Set in a dystopian future where the world is a barren wasteland the wealthy live in ‘Bubbles’ of luxury and virtual reality controlled by evil corporations being present in all walks of life, this book had everything it needed to be a fascinating and gripping read. Unfortunately, it let itself down.
Nirvana is set in a dystopian future where the bees are gone and the world has become a barren wasteland. Larissa Kenders lives in the Barracks and spends her day patrolling while her husband partakes in top secret and dangerous research. This book takes place 6 months after he disappears and Kenders (as she likes to be known) refuses to believe that he has died. Instead, she spends her precious free time in Nirvana, a virtual reality system, searching for clues as to where he might be and if, indeed he is still alive. All the while Hexagon, a corporation which rules the Barracks, is determined to see her fail.
I found the plot to be very intriguing. With virtual reality being an integral part, Stewart allows for some interesting, philosophical conflicts and leaves the reader guessing as to what is the truth. I found the mystery to be intriguing and found myself desperate to know what the resolution was. This is, however, the first book in a series, so not all the questions were answered in this book.
Kenders had the potential to be a great main character – she had a defining back story, when you are first introduced to her she is hard at work in both her university degree and her music, throughout the book she is stubborn and refused to give in. However, I found that she came across quite flat. Kenders spends much of the book pining after Andrew (her husband) so much so that whenever her music or other hobbies or even the actual mystery gets mentioned, it feels a little forced. She is also very much defined and being saved or told what to do by the men of the book. While she is stubborn, it is frustrating how much her life revolves around Andrew and the other men. Not to mention, there is only one other woman in the novel.
I also found the other characters difficult to grasp. While each had their own motivations, I found each one playing a stereotype – the villain, the father-figure, the geeky best friend who is secretly in love the main character. None of them felt very real to me and, as a result, I found it hard to relate to anyone.
While the characters were a disappointment, the world they lived in was fascinating. It had plenty of Big Brother vibes, and the use of virtual reality to control people was a concept I enjoyed reading about. Virtual reality was used very well in this book and I enjoyed how well its use mirrored Kenders’ state of mind in her search for Andrew.
I do wish the world had been explored more, or described in a manner that made it clearer. While I did end the book with a rough idea of how it was structured and how it ended up that way, it was not as thorough an image as I would like and I did find the descriptions both confusing in places and lacking. I would have also liked the science behind the extinction to be explained a bit better as the bees going extinct did not provide a valid enough excuse.
While the book had a fascinating plot, I did find the characters lacking and the world difficult to get into. I also feel like the book could have been edited a bit more before being published – the plot jumped around without any warning in a number of places, so much so that I was pushed out of the story and found it difficult to get back in. For the writing style as well, I felt the topics to be too mature. It reads like a book for under 12 year olds and some of the concepts, science and themes of the book seemed a bit too complex – the dichotomy between the writing and some of these scenes was jarring.
The over-arching mystery is thrilling and the writing, when good is really good, but, while I would like to know the conclusion to it all, I don’t think it is a series I will be continuing, unfortunately.