Feb 9, 2010

[Books] Idlewild

IdlewildIt's very hard for me to get into a new book series on my own. I don't quite understand why this is the case, but it just is. I think the only time that I've found a completely new series of books to get into was when I picked up Peter J. Hamilton's The Reality Dysfunction and found myself enjoying the whole series. Books like are pretty rare.

I tend to rely on the opinions and recommendations of friends for the most part. I guess it helps me minimize risk in terms of exploring a new series of books given these recommendations come from people that I trust. More or less.

Then there are those books that aren't truly recommendations but are just books that a friend picks out since they seem to fit your tastes. This was one of those books and I was certainly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

Idlewild is the first of a trilogy of science fiction books written by Nick Sagan, the son of THE Carl Sagan. This is definitely one of those cases when I'm glad the son took up the craft of his father, unlike other sons of famous writers like Brian Herbert.

Damn you Brian Herbert. Anyway.

Idlewild, Michigan is home to a school unlike any other - that where the better off can send their children to a completely different kind of private school. Here the teens are immersed in an artificial reality known as the IVR where they are taught their lessons in a virtual school where they can not only gain access to the best teachers ever programmed but they can re-live the greatest moments in history. Imagine learning about evolution alongside Charles Darwin or discussing the Theory of General Relativity with Albert Einstein. Such are the possibilities of a virtual school.

Our protagonist wakes up unable to move within this virtual world and also without his memory. He quickly realizes that someone tried to kill him and he may have killed someone himself as well. Thus a complex mystery begins to unfold as he tries to regain his memory without revealing to his peers what has happened to him. Solving the mystery of the attack on him is just the beginning for Idlewild holds even deeper secrets than meets the eye.

I certainly appreciated the tone of the book as based on the perspective of its protagonist, Halloween. He's your more or less typical brooding teenager whose intellectual realizations and internal commentary smacks of the likes of Holden Caufield, which I rather enjoyed. Plus he wasn't just trying to sound smart - this character does happen to be highly intelligent and some of the meanderings of his mind probably become rather difficult for your average, non-science fiction reader to keep up with at times.

The book presents the reader with some very interesting concepts about human evolution, surviving future challenges and perhaps even the question of humanity itself. Despite the brainier parts of the book, it's a fairly simple read and I can imagine this being more targeted towards a younger audience. This is not to say that the older set can't enjoy the books - I'm just saying it has a rather hit, vibrant tone that's pretty fun.

Plus I like how the reveals were handled all throughout the book. Just when you think you have things figured out, Sagan goes on to jerk you around in a completely different direction. Plus nothing and no one is overly sacred - anyone is a liability that can be killed. No one is quite who they seem to be. In a world where people can escape into the IVR, what is truly real any more?

I know, the questions reek of The Matrix, but it's not quite the same. I'd like to think of it as a nice update to the cyberpunk genre in a manner that is refreshing and can survive into the new future. It's not a game-changing book or anythging like that, but it's still a great read and more than worth picking up. I already have the other two books in the trilogy and I can hardly wait to get to the next title.

Oh wait - I already started on it yesteday, haha.

Idlewild gets 4 IVR domains out of a possible 5.

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  1. glad you liked it

  2. @kitchengod

    Many thanks for the recommendation.

  3. i've a deep relationship with your books. I guess I know who fits. I refer to them as people, of course. I apologize to those who were relegated to shelf duty before, hehehehe. I miss the showcase boys who featured Jessica, the Wyrd Sisters, the girl with those damn beautiful ears, the noble wife of Paul and the daughter of Death.