A group of involuntary beta testers for a virtual reality game don’t realise that they are playing but think that they are really the first colonists on Themis, a planet of Proxima Centauri. The story follows them in their adventures on the planet, back home, and their fighting against their abuse.
I loved the epistolary, emotionally engaging style. As always with Valentine, the prose was beautiful.
The characters were believable, especially main protagonist Marie. As an avid gamer, I’d surely love to immerse in that surrounding without the ethical questionary coercion, of course. That’s why I fully understand Marie’s hopeless adiction and urge to return back to that world. Some ideas in this story were really great, e.g. the question if prisoners might reduce their sentence when they behave well in a time-accelerated virtual reality. It brings up questions of corporate citizenship („behave well“), prison ethics, the ever recurring danger of excessive gaming, the questionable behavior of gaming media, and the gamers reactions who don’t give a damn.
The only, slight drawback that I found were the many endings: Just when I thought the story is done, there were a couple of more final twists – somewhat similar to The Lord of the Rings.