EleMental: A First-person Shooter
by Steven O'Connor
You're in for a treat. Steven O'Connor has kindly donated two paperback copies of his book EleMental: A First-person Shooter for our giveaway below. In addition, Steven joins me in another blog post to discuss MonuMental: The Hack's Back, the sequel to EleMental.
Willis, a loner not by choice, is gradually drawn into friendship with Zeb - cool and reckless - and into love with Arizona - bold and untouchable.
Set in 2050, the three teenagers encounter a deadly new virtual reality game called EleMental. Deliberately designed to be highly addictive, to control rebellious asteroid miners, EleMental has a by-product no one was ready for: gameblur. One moment, you're at your desk, the next, you're battling something half-dinosaur, half-tank.
From Chapter 1: 'Attention game'
Willis was weak. He was ill. And he was lost.
The city's buildings reached high, throwing out long shadows and reminding him of the Shade Specter monsters from a virtual game that was all the rage a few years back – not that he'd ever played the v'game himself, or any v'games at all. V'gaming wasn't his thing.
He stood in the darkness of one shadow with his back to a department store wall and gazed out at the moving crowds, avoiding their glances.
As soon as his mother's zipcar had lifted from the curb and buzzed away, leaving him alone, he felt nauseous. What was he doing here? He had no idea which direction led home. Cities were foreign to him, and yet here he was, smack bang in the middle of the biggest one he could imagine. Fool. He knew how this dumb outing was going to end: with him contacting his mum or dad and one of them coming to fetch him.
No! He would not message home. He was practically fifteen. This might be a new place to him, but he was capable. He'd find his own way home. Somehow.
Then Willis saw him. Zeb Redman. He'd know him anywhere; only the coolest kid from his class. Correction. The whole damn school.
He shot past Willis on his hyperboard, crouching low for speed. The hyperboard's erupter – the small suspension laser generator fixed at the back – thrummed loudly.
Maybe if Willis followed him, he would learn a thing or two about living in this place. Or at the very least, he could point Willis in the right direction.
Willis raced after him.
Zeb Redman cursed as he spun around the corner, balancing on his speeding hyperboard, and saw the last thing he wanted to see. The queue at Screamers V'Games Universe was mammoth. It snaked from somewhere deep within the store, out through its snapping auto-doors and stretched out of sight down the street. The disappointment gnawed at him. Wagging school had made no difference.
The store's flashing signs seemed to taunt him: Experience the new Plush. Free trials all day. Don't miss out.
Zeb sighed, flipped from his hovering hyperboard, and landed on the street curb. Far in front of him, perched at the head of the queue, some lucky guy was set to be the first to experience the new Plush DVP – deep virtual player – v'games console. Zeb gazed the other way, down the shuffling queue of hopefuls. At ten minutes a turn, it would be nighttime before his chance at a free try-out came around. The place would be closed by then.
He closed his eyes and released a slow breath, relaxing as he'd trained himself to do prior to taking on a high-level boss enemy. As in v'games, so in life. He decided to go in anyway. With all this commotion going on, you never knew what you might find. Behind him, he was half-aware of some kid approaching. He looked wet. No one worth knowing, that was for sure. He ignored him, stepped forward and worked his way through the queue and into the store. People glared, but he held up his arms, all innocence. 'It's all right. Not queue jumping. Just trying to get in.'
With the rack full, he was forced to carry his hyperboard. He wandered the aisles of expensive v'games that filled the store's shelves, thoughts of which monopolized his every waking moment. Especially the gleaming rows of gloss-wrapped 2050 first-person shooter new releases – v'games with packaging that sported moving images of exploding army death-tanks, multi-headed trolls with weapons the size of cannons, grinning aliens with scarred and bloodied bodies ... Xtreme-rated horrocore. All bearing the latest in ziptech security seals. Impossible to steal.
But his instinct for an opportunity had been right. The crowds fussing over the new v'games console provided an excellent diversion. After a period of frustrated browsing (everything was out of his price range!), he spied something he knew he could have – with a bit of skill and luck. An old first-person shooter called Hoolyguns. It was sticking out of the corner of a weightless sales bin otherwise chock-a-block with dated v'romances and offworld tour guides.
He slung his hyperboard across his back, straightened his bag at his side, and spent a long time stalking the bin as it floated through the store's aisles. Waiting for the right moment. And as it drifted towards an out-of-the-way exit, far from the winding queue and the onlookers clustered at Plush v'space-windows oohing and aahing at the virtual action within, Zeb's own excitement mounted. Though it wasn't Xtreme-rated or anything, it looked compatible with his old Magnum 50. So who was he to complain? He, with only a Magnum console at home and nothing decent to play on it. He, who hungered for any first-person shooter. New, old, secondhand, whatever.
And it bore an ancient security imprint. As far as Zeb was concerned, it was a giveaway and the disappointment about the Plush try-out slipped from his mind.
He watched. He crept forward. He waited.
A security zipcam meandered up and stopped close to the bin. It clicked and hissed as it lowered itself to the floor, its many lenses rotating. Then it lifted again and moved on, heading down a nearby aisle.
Now! Moving in, Zeb hustled the bin up against the wall. Using his body to block the view of anyone who might be watching, he snatched the v'game from the sales bin, pulled a screwdriver from his pocket, squeezed it until a sharp stick of hard blue laser shot out, and slash, cut, strip! Security imprint: gone. No zipcam would bother chasing and recording him.
Plunging the v'game into the depths of his bag, he was out that door.
By T. Atkins
I purchased this book for my teenage sons, but decided to give it a read. I must say, it's really entertaining for folks young and old. There is a great deal of imagination and the world-building is top notch. I have a feeling that the full-immersion VDP game consoles described will one day be reality. The story is a straight up action adventure, with a bit of horror mixed in. The characters are well fleshed out and the motives are completely realistic. The author really does get into the teenage mind and explores it well, with themes of addiction and rebellion in the name of friendship. The interplay between the protagonists is well done. The plot elements that blend between reality and the virtual are sharply written and add some solid mystery-suspense in the early parts of the book that hold together very well. It's a great read and goes by quickly, as it is a page-turner.
About the Author
Steven O'Connor writes young adult fiction with a futuristic bent. His writing is influenced by Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Blade Runner, Dr Who, and just about every sci-fi film and TV show you could possibly think of.
His initial manuscript for EleMental: A First-person Shooter won him a coveted Young Adult Fiction Writers' Mentorship at the national Varuna Writers' Center in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. Book 2 in the series, MonuMental: The Hack's Back, can be read as a sequel or as a stand-alone book. Steven has also written the short story, MotherCraft, which started out as a flashback scene in EleMental.
When Steven is not writing, he's a professional social worker and he's passionate about his work with young people.
Originally from Luton, England, Steven O'Connor now lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife, two teenage children and Sparks, his ever-attentive, ever-hungry Cavalier King Charles spaniel (AKA a toy dog, AKA canny writing assistant).
Steven has kindly donated two paperbacks (featuring the original cover art) for our giveaway, which is open internationally. So, if you love your paperbacks, be sure to enter.