by Gillian Rubinstein
Series: Space Demons 3
Reviewed date: 2018 Sep 8
215 pages
cover art

Very different book than the two previous books.

Previous books were about the emotional turmoil of pre-teen lives. The games preyed on these emotions, and amplified them. And the games were exciting.

Shinkei starts off really great. There are segments written in MUD game style, like the text-based adventure games. E.g., Zork. These are from the perspective of the game, the artificial intelligence that is Shinkei. But unlike the previous books, where the game is an essential part of the action, here the kids don’t play the game until more than halfway through the book.

The game manipulates the real world to bring the kids to Japan. This takes a long time. An agonizingly long time. Author Gillian Rubinstein tries to give a flavor of Japanese culture, but only succeeds in making me think proper title of this book should be "Gillian Rubinstein took a holiday to Tokyo and wrote down the names of the subway stations and also bought a Japanese phrase book."

That’s harsh, I know. And it's clear Rubinstein knows a great deal about Japan and Japanese culture. But my son, who loved the previous books to death, got bored halfway through and asked me to quit. I read him another Wizard of Oz book instead.

Shinkei feeds on desire
The Space Demons game fed on hate. Skymaze fed on fear. But Shinkei is a different sort of game. It feeds on desire. The game itself runs on the neural pathways of the players' brains, not just on a computer. And to keep the players invested in the game, so that it can use them as cells in its body, it allows them to create virtual realities where all their deepest desires come true. Elaine creates a world where her mom comes back. Ben is a famous dancer. Midori Ito's mother is still alive. Toshi is a samurai in the glory days of Japan.

Shinkei can manipulate the real world, and something that powerful attracts people who want to use it. A cult called Pure Mind wants to use Shinkei to control the world, while a greedy executive at E3 wants to get rich selling the game to the world. But when the Pure Mind boss and the E3 executive get sucked into the game, the virtual realities they create are twisted and evil. Seeing these twisted fantasies is what helps the others--Elaine, Ben, Midori, Mario, Toshi, Andrew, and Professor Ito--to choose to reject Shinkei and return to the real world.

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