Reader Review: Otherworld – Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller
Otherworld is definitely a book that drew quite a bit of attention when it was first announced and it’s grown quite an audience, so I knew that it was going to be something to appear on my ‘TBR’. After eyeing the book in one of my local book warehouses for weeks on end, I finally decided that I was in the mood to just bite the bullet and read it. I was… surprised, and not for all good reasons.
I knew that I had to give this book a shot from the moment I read the blurb of it before it was released. The premise is interesting, that’s a given, and so I just thought that I owed it to the book itself and the concept of it to see how well it had been carried out and constructed. I don’t regret reading the book, though I do have a few things to pick apart now that I have given it the time of day.
I didn’t know a huge amount about the plot itself when I began reading the novel, I’ll admit. I did know that it was based around an immersive virtual reality and not all goes to plan, but, apart from that, I didn’t look into any reviews or prior information regarding the plot twists and the characters that would be thrown into the mix. The book itself follows our main character, Simon, as he becomes immersed into the virtual reality ‘Otherworld’ and gets caught up in a scheme where it seems the creator company has been people in induced ‘comas’ so that they can act as beta testers for a bigger expansion of the game itself. These beta testers are linked to the virtual reality through their brains – which means that they can completely experience the reality as if they were there themselves. It goes beyond anything technology has so far achieved – which is why the company leads to doing very sketchy things regarding these ‘beta testers’ which they make to look like accident victims with ‘locked in syndrome’. One of these ‘beta testers’ is Simon’s best friend, Kat, which obviously means he gets further involved than he first expected.
One thing that stood out to me about the book once I started reading it is that it pretty much throws you into the plot straight away. There’s no long premise that introduces the technology or provides you with a background look at how the world came to be – it just starts out with the virtual reality in the state that it is for the characters and how they experience it. It gives a good introduction to the plot of the book overall, however, and it does make the readers feel involved from the get-go. For the most part, the book and the writing style reads fairly easily, though there are some points where the dialogue and the action within the scenes seem to be written at a ‘jarred’ pace, which can put the reader off.
However, saying that, there’s definitely the continued urge to find out what’s actually going on in the story and what it’s leading to. There’s no ‘run up’ to the main plot itself – the story progresses at a quick pace and tries to keeps the readers are entertained and interested as possible. Though, reviewing back on the pace itself and the ‘jarred’ style of writing, I think it could’ve been progressing too fast at some points – and that’s lead to some of the aspects of the story seeming ‘forced’ and ‘wooden’.
The descriptions and overall premise are good and interesting – it does make the readers think and consider the actuality of the world within the book. Later on in the book, it approaches the question of the world having an ‘overall creator’ and that’s a small detail that I liked because it adds that further interest and mystery to the overall story for the readers to explore in their own minds even after finishing the book. The occasional comedic value was also good at points – you could tell that Jason Segel had written it – though it wasn’t as evident as I was expecting it to be.
My main problems, however, lie within the characters themselves – notably, the main character, Simon. From the very beginning of the book, I was rather ‘off’ about the characterisation of our protagonist because I gathered the feeling that he definitely had some sort of superiority complex which I assumed would just escalate throughout the book and make him worse off. I would say that my assumption was correct due to the fact that, as the plot continued and thickened, the main character just gets more annoying. The whole plot point of the ‘nose’ being his defining factor felt too forced – it felt as if it was trying to be more important than it was, but it wasn’t interesting enough to be a ‘quirky’ trait. As the action gets more intense, Simon becomes obsessive over Kat in an unhealthy way that, at times, it actually made me uncomfortable. He sees himself as the hero who has to save the damsel – he’s on his own mission to save her from all her issues, and so the superiority complex shoots through the roof. I didn’t bond with Kat, I rather just shrugged her off, either due to being too annoyed at Simon or just because she wasn’t written with enough interest or depth.
My other main issue with the book was the ending. It was largely anti-climatic and left me feeling deflated as if there was another chapter or two that had been ripped out of my copy before I could buy it. It confused me as well – clearly, there’s more to the virtual reality story which is going to be continued on in the sequel, though the ending could’ve been constructed in a much better manner overall. It didn’t need to ‘drop off’ quite as suddenly – it felt like they were aiming for a cliff-hanger but hardly achieved digging a ditch.
To put it simply; the premise and plot of Otherworld is definitely an interesting one with a lot of potentials. The book isn’t bad – it’s immersive, it’s interesting, and it keeps the reader’s captivated because they want to find out what’s actually going on. However, at least for myself personally, the characters were not enjoyable and didn’t resonate with the audience. Instead of bonding and feeling for them, I rather tried to ignore them, which I believe also made me feel as if the writing and dialogue were ‘wooden’ and uninteresting at certain times.
I do think that I will be reading the next book in the series when that gets released, just to see the continuation of the story and any potential world/character development that might be thrown in. The book wasn’t bad – but it was the characters and the endings that really stumped it for me.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll write you later.
If you’re a fan of Black Mirror, then I’d advise you check out this book – it approaches the question of how far modern technology could actually go and what it could result in, though in a more ‘novice’ young audience approach.
If you’re a big fan of video games and contemplating the existence of our universe and all the alternate dimensions out there, then maybe Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller are the authors for you! Check out Otherworld to experience reality as it isn’t, in a way that one day it could be.