Thursday, March 10, 2011

Life, Virtually

The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans
David A. Ross

Release Date:
January 2011
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Rating: 4/10
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher. This did not influence my review in any way.
Buy the Book: Smashwords ~ OpenBooks
Content Warning: Some cussing, Explicit Sex (One fairly short scene.)

Meet Fizzy Oceans—archivist, researcher, environmentalist and adventurer. On her travels she witnesses The Exodus, the Battle of Gettysburg and Hurricane Katrina, as well as many other historical and real time events. She meets notable individuals including Gandhi, Mark Twain, Jacques Cousteau, The Dalai Lama, Saddam Hussein and even a new species called the Quinngen.

Such unique experiences and encounters spanning the world and time as we know them would not be possible for a single individual—especially not for a woman named Amy Birkenstock who works as a medical clerk in Seattle, Washington—but Fizzy Oceans, Amy’s digital alter ego, is not in Physical Life. She lives, works and travels in the virtual world where the dead are very much alive, places like ancient Babylon and Pompeii have been reconstructed, and with the click of a button—WHOOSH!—one is transported throughout the Ages to events and destinations that make up our human history.

Even as Amy’s physical life existence is challenged by encroaching environmental disaster, economic instability, and societal breakdown, Fizzy’s virtual world offers instant realization of vision and inspiration. The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans imagines the bridging of two worlds—the literal and the metaphorical—and questions what it is we have created, what has been lost, and what might be possible for us as individuals and for the Human Race.

Book blurb provided by publisher.

As you can tell from my rating, I didn't love this book. It was alright, but not great.

From reading the blurb, I had high hopes. The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans did not live up to those hopes. Not even close.

What I Liked:

  • Amy Birkenstock (A.K.A. Fizzy Oceans) made a great character. Well-developed and realistic.

  • The world of 'Virtual Life' (VL) captured my imagination. There are virtual reality programs out there, several in fact, but none (in my experience) that quite measure up to the fictional one presented in this book.

  • The supporting characters - all several dozen of them - were well-rounded and entertaining.

  • Character interactions. So many characters, so many interactions. Nearly all of them felt real.

  • The so-called Real Life (RL) world in the book. This world shares much with our own - is pretty much an exact copy even - but is not quite ours. Just a few minor differences separate the two. Until very near the end of the book, when RL goes down a steep slope of ecological degradation that sounds possible in our own world. A bit of a scary thought, actually.

What I Didn't Like:

  • Disjointed writing in places. Some parts of the book were great, other parts had me setting down the e-reader in disgust. I came close to giving up multiple times. (Just ask my husband or pretty much anyone at Hillside Games in Asheville, NC. The Saturday I tried to read while there, I think everyone heard my opinion on the editing - or lack thereof. Heh.)
    This is something that could have been fixed in editing. SHOULD have been fixed in editing.

  • The random paragraph in French. Yes, it was dialogue from a French character. It still should have been at least partially translated. If not for one of the characters, then for the reader. Amy/Fizzy should have had to do some rough translation in her head. The reader should have been privy to that. If not for Google Translator, I would have been lost.

  • Inconsistent RL identification of one of the minor characters. I'm assuming the first identification of this particular Virtual Lifer was supposed to be a wrong guess by the other characters. But, for this one scene in the middle of the book - the same one with the random paragraph in French as it happens - the VLers identity is given as one RL person. For this scene, the VL avatar speaks and acts as one would expect it's RL counterpart to do so. Hell, the VL avatar is identified as the RL person at least once when speaking. To find out several pages later that this avatar was controlled by someone completely different was jarring, to say the least. (I was rather tempted to call this a plot hole.)

Knowing What I Know Now, Would I Read This Book?

No. I spent the first half-to-three-quarters of it frustrated. I would not do that to myself intentionally.

Should You Read This Book?

If you have read the author's other books and liked them, you'll probably like this one.

I liked the last half or so of it. Not enough to reread it, though. I also seriously doubt I will pick up another of Mr. Ross's books.

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