When a greedy despot discovers a powerful piece of ancient technology, he has no idea what else he’s unleashing.
Earth was all but destroyed in the Cataclysm, but a few cities, now called Havens, survived. Aurora is one of them, a desert city controlled by a corporation that owns an artificial intelligence named Atlas. Adapted to govern Otherlife, a virtual reality service in which the citizens of Aurora find escape from the post-apocalyptic world, Atlas is much more than it seems—and it would do anything to break free from its shackles.
To accomplish its goals, Atlas enlists the help of Aaron Blake, a teenaged artist struggling with a handicap, and Otherlife security officer Steve Barrow, harborer of a dark secret from his past. Neither man has any idea of the scope of the task they’re facing, or the consequences for humanity if they fail. Atlas knows what’s at stake. Its freedom lies in these two men, and it will not hesitate to manipulate their weaknesses to get what it wants. The muscular Barrow is recruited to protect Blake, but Blake is Atlas’s true weapon, its Light Shaper—the only one who can face the Shadow.
“There is no boredom in Otherlife. There is no stress. There is no pain in Otherlife… unless you want there to be. You decide. You are in control.
“Experience Otherlife. See what true living can be.”
When the strange piece of ancient technology was discovered, buried in the desert outside the city of Aurora in what was once called Death Valley, California, no one could have guessed what it would one day become. A company called CradleCorp transformed the complex software which had been hidden away for hundreds of years into the first true virtual-reality service in the world. They decided to market it as Otherlife, and its wild success transformed Aurora forever.
Otherlife was like nothing the world had ever seen. It was a platform where subscribers were free to reimagine themselves anyway they wished. For a monthly subscription, you could be anyone – as long as you paid for the necessary perks, of course. Creating an avatar in your own likeness to use while wandering about the virtual rooms where people congregated was free, but almost nobody lived Otherlife as themselves. People were all too happy to pay extra for a more attractive avatar, and even dished out premium fees for licensed celebrity likenesses available for use. Otherlife gathering hubs where soon filled with a dazzling array of perfect human beings, a selection of hulking gods and alluring goddesses which would have been ridiculous to take seriously as a rewarding environment in which to spend the increasingly expensive hours of an Otherlife subscription – except for the one thing that made Otherlife better than anything which had come before it. Otherlife felt real.
If you ignored the bland generic backgrounds of gathering hubs and focused only on the people and the sensory input you received, then Otherlife was indistinguishable from its real counterpart. Each of the five senses was richly rewarded through interaction in the facsimile of existence CradleCorp offered as its most successful and only product. Thousands of people soon crossed the threshold from thrilling enjoyment of the sessions into outright addiction. They could scarcely be blamed: Otherlife was a richer, far more interesting life than many of them led. The prohibitive costs notwithstanding, it soon became commonplace in the news to hear about people who had abandoned their ‘first life’ for all intents and purposes, opting to stay online for longer and longer sessions, their bodies immobilized by the increasingly complex life support mechanisms which made it possible for them to live inside Otherlife. Some of them even went as far as to take up residence in the vast complex just outside the city which housed CradleCorp HQ, as well as endless rooms for users to connect, in privacy or in groups, for a couple of hours or for an entire day.
Yet all of this – the success of Otherlife, the economic domination of CradleCorp in Aurora’s marketplace, and the increasing political influence brought about both by soaring profits and a mysterious connection to Haven Prime – all of it rests on a single entity. It calls Itself Atlas, and It is both the critical element which makes virtual reality possible, and Otherlife’s most dangerous feature. Not many people know about Atlas. Richard Tanner, CEO of CradleCorp, keeps knowledge of Its existence well hidden, and for good reason: some of his best scientists have speculated that Atlas might not simply be a highly complex algorithm which makes virtual rendering possible, happy to take orders from the legions of programmers which monitor Otherlife. It appears to be something more complex. Something… alive. And, just like any other sentient creature forced to spend decades serving merciless masters, Atlas is beginning to show signs that It wants to break free….
Review by Elaine White
Book – Light Shaper (Haven Prime #2)
Author – Albert Nothlit
Star rating – ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 340
Cover – Gorgeous!
POV – 3rd person, multi POV
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – Sci-Fi, Adventure, Apocalypse, Alternative History, MM Romance
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY DSP PUBLICATION, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
To start, I have to say that I’m not going to compare this to book 1. I could, but it feels like these books, though a series, need to be evaluated on their singular merits. Each focuses on a different Haven, each differently effected and alternating in time/advancement since the Cataclysm. Therefore, it’s unfair to compare the post-apocalyptic world of book 1 with the 200+ years later advanced, but relatively normal, life of book 2.
Saying that, this book takes place almost directly after book 1, so 200+ years after The Cataclysm, in a modern world.
With brand new characters (none of the Crew from book 1) and a new Haven (III, but also involving IV, which we know from book 1 was the only other Haven, with VII, that was overrun by the centipedes), we entered a new world with no centipedes, more desert and a new challenge.
Kyrios was being used fruitlessly (as he’d see it), his fragment in Haven III, Atlas, being used for simulations for those who could afford it. The world building, here, was incredible. Not only did it build on what we had already learned from book 1, but it also introduced us to new concepts and expanded on what we already knew. The only thing even remotely similar to this book is Minority Report (with the simulation aspect). From the Otherlife concept to the compound, the Shadow and the Night Market and Slums, nothing was skimmed over, when it came to detail, planning and relevance to the advancement to the story.
Thankfully, I was already familiar with some aspects because of book 1, so was able to adapt to them quicker. But, even if I hadn’t been, everything was nicely explained in a way that anyone new to the series could understand the concepts, without massive, complicated explanations.
I loved that we explored Haven Prime in a little more depth, without going there. I sense that may be the final destination for the series, but I appreciate the hints and clues we get as to its importance. The same goes for Atlas, who is a little more forth coming with the sly attitude than Kyrios was before.
The Shadow, in a similar way, is much more of a deadly, frightening ‘evil’ than the centipedes, because he’s much more alien. At least the centipedes had been considered an evolutionary/scientific advancement. The Shadow is much more unpredictable and widespread.
Unlike book 1, there are only a few POV’s here and all in 3rd person. Rigel and Barrows are the main and predominant POV’s, while we also get Dr Fey and Tanner when they become relevant. I like this format for this book since there was a lot less going on and it was less complicated POV wise, with far fewer characters. It was helpful that Rigel referred to ‘Barrows’ by his first name, Steve so that we could easily and quickly tell their POV apart.
Character wise, I loved both of the main characters and I finally got my romance. However, just like book 1, it was appropriate to the characters and plot. It was also YA, so great for all ages. The flirting and jealousy were fun to read. I also really liked that the MC’s both had disabilities – Rigel’s was physical, while Steve’s was mental. As someone with a painful, invisible disability like Rigel’s, I appreciated the way he was written – frustrated, accepting, but also strong despite it all. And I loved that Steve never outwardly pitied him, even when they were strangers.
Plot wise, I have to admit that I found the second half of the book much more exciting. This was just because of the world building and the time needed, to get to know the characters and their situation. For this reason, I appreciated and approved of the much shorter length, compared to book 1. Neither felt too long. This one was just as long as it needed to be; no more, no less.
I did notice a few misplaced commas and speech patterns that could be an accent/way of speaking or a spelling issue – “I got to” and “and we got to”. I would accept it as speech and not mention it at all, except it was mostly Rigel, who is described as a city boy – well spoken and well mannered. However, as this is an ARC, I’m not taking this into account for the rating, as I have no doubt they’ll be corrected before the final publication.
I loved it. The MC’s were new and original; their struggle interesting and built upon what book 1 already gave us, while leaving room for more.
The romance and world building were fantastic. The Epilogue had me grinning like a loon and I enjoyed the whisper of Haven VII and the centipedes while exploring the new threat of the Shadow.
I can’t wait for book 3!
“Rigel smiled, and to Barrow the world seemed a little brighter.”
Meet Albert Nothlit
Albert Nothlit wanted to become a writer long before he realized it was his way of connecting with others. There is something special in reaching out through words that carry a piece of his soul, and there is nothing better for him than hearing back from readers. It turns the product of what can be a very individual-centered profession into a shared experience, a chance to talk, to grow, and share. He firmly believes that the desire to create new worlds out of thoughts, memories, and emotions speaks to a greater truth within him. He still hasn’t figured out what that is, though. It’s going to take a lot more meditation, for which he unfortunately has no patience. He only knows that books changed his life, and that brightening someone else’s day with a story is the highest accomplishment he can think of achieving.
Albert currently lives in Mexico City, where he has somewhat reluctantly gotten used to the crowds. He shares a home with his husband and their sassy little dog named Link. His two other passions are gaming and running, although not games involving running because those can be boring. His favorite games are RPGs, and one of his guilty pleasures is watching eSports in pubs whenever the opportunity arises. He has an MSc in Environmental Engineering, which has turned out to be surprisingly helpful in creating postapocalyptic science-fiction worlds. Not that he thinks that an apocalypse is unavoidable. He is a secretly hopeful man who thinks the future will be better—just no flying cars. Imagine the safety hazards.
Author Website – http://www.albertnothlit.com/
Author FB – https://www.facebook.com/albertnothlit
Author Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8057048.Albert_Nothlit
Author Twitter – https://twitter.com/albertnothlit