Heir Apparent, by Vivian Vande Velde

Vivian Vande Velde’s written a fair amount of books, cialis 40mg most of which are rather small. I was happy to discover that this book was over three hundred pages, despite the fact that it’s sort of almost cyberpunk. (Cyber-teen-punk?) I haven’t read much real cyberpunk, but that really had nothing to do with my enjoyment of the book.

Giannine Bellisario has an absent father who, at least, got her the right gift for her fourteenth birthday – a $50 gift certificate to a gaming place. It’s the near future, so these games are a little more complicated. $50 will buy you about 3 game-days (half an hour, real-time) in a virtual reality machine. Unfortunately, on the day that Giannine has planned to spend her gift certificate, picketers are causing a disturbance outside the gaming place. They say that these computer games are harming our children – the group is called CPOC, Citizens to Protect Out Children. Giannine thinks they’re a group of crazies and goes to play anyway. She chooses a game called Heir Apparent, where the point is to win the game by being made king (or queen) of the fantasy land one is in. One starts as a goat-herder, by the way. All is going well until the CPOC people get violent and something breaks so Giannine is stuck in her game until she can win. When that happens, they can disconnect her safely, but until then . . . they have to hope she wins quickly, because otherwise there could be permanent brain damage.

Most of the story is told from Giannine’s point of view inside the game, where she starts as a goat-herding peasant, is discovered by a royal envoy to be a member of the royal family, finds a magic ring, and tries not to die. She has to decide who to trust and ends up getting killed many times. Dying merely returns her to the beginning of the game, though.

The good news is that Vande Velde does not repeat the entire story every single time Giannine dies. She manages to keep a slightly improbable story interesting by having an interesting narrator who solves problems in perhaps an unorthodox fashion. The characters – yes, I mean the fake ones in the game – are also interesting, and she’s pretty good at not hitting the readers over the head with her theme. (Yes, she has a theme. It was a bit obvious to me, but I’m twice the age of the standard reader of this book.)

It’s definitely enjoyable, an odd mix of near-future cyber-sf and traditional secondary-world fantasy, with enough humor to keep me entertained and no terribly obvious plot flaws. The fact that they break the machine right when Giannine is in it is a bit convenient, but that’s just one of those smallish things that falls under the whole category of ‘suspension of disbelief’. Overall, this is a good children’s/YA fantasy/sf type of book, and I’d give it 4/5 stars.

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