Virtual Sabotage, by Julie Hyzy

Seven stars

Having long been a fan of Julie Hyzy’s mystery work, I was pleased to try something outside of the genre. This most recent publication stems from a short story she read years ago, which helped plant the seed of an idea around the world of virtual reality (VR). As the world continues to seek more in the VR realm, Virtu-Tech stands at the forefront of its delivery. Many people the world over are happy to use VR in their daily lives, usually as a form of entertainment. However, as with all activities, there are limits before things get unsafe, which is where Kenna Ward comes into play. Working as an ‘envoy’, Kenna is tasked to act as a ‘lifeguard for the brain’ and keeps people from getting too involved in their VR experiences. During one of her forays into the virtual world, she comes across her fiancé, who is in the middle of a highly-involved experience, which leads to his death. Charlie has suffered, it would seem, from something called mortal absorption, whereby reality and the virtual realm blur. It is only when Kenna wants answers that she learns Charlie has been sitting on some stunning information about Virtu-Tech, something that might bring this company to its knees. As she works with her team, they discover that someone within the hierarchy of Virtu-Tech has been targeting clueless VR users. The more Kenna discovers, the larger the target on her back. With members of her team turning up dead, will she be next? In a battle to seek justice, Kenna has to wonder how much of what she knows is simply a figment of her VR world. Hyzy does well with this piece, pulling on her great writing ability to take readers outside the norm. Recommended for those with an interest in the burgeoning world of VR and the reader who likes a little suspense in their reading experience.

This is the second book this week that I have read, where the author is working outside the realm in which I am used to seeing them. Both have been valiant efforts, though I surmise that my less than total interest in virtual reality may have flavoured my sentiments regarding this piece. Hyzy effectively creates her characters to be both believable and liked by the reader. Kenna Ward presents well and pushes to learn everything she can, without being too detached from the everyday. The loss of her fiancé has surely helped motivate her to get answers, but she is not fixated on the journey, in such a way that it creates tunnel vision. Hyzy surrounds her protagonist with a handful of useful characters, many of whom balance out good versus bad quotient throughout the narrative, offering some sinister aspects to the world of VR. Hyzy builds on these character traits throughout, weaving together a story that is less than completely plausible, though the plot seems to follow a fairly straight path. The story itself is well-devised and has been written effectively to keep the reader’s interest. Hyzy has spent a great deal of time researching and it shows, as there is little awkwardness with descriptions, nor does the book drop ‘inside language’ that keeps the reader guessing or feeling lost. While VR is not my thing, I cannot discount Hyzy’s work as less than impressive. The mystery held my attention and I will surely return when she has more to offer. As always, it is a pleasure to see what she pens, as it reads easily and provides much entertainment.

Kudos, Madam Hyzy, for another great piece. I am a longtime fan, so it is always a pleasure to see you expanding your horizons. Keep writing!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: