Warning: There are some spoilers!
I'm really enjoying this new genre that's popping up (Is it a new genre? it's probably not new at all and I'm just late to the game...) -- the "Oh hey, the video game I like is actually real" genre. I read Warcross earlier this year (really enjoyed it) and Otherworld plays into some of those same tropes as well.
Otherworld presents some intriguing ideas...what if your favorite MMORPG game (anybody for World of Warcraft?) was revamped to allow for VR headsets? What if the AI in the game becomes sentient? What constitutes "life"? I think these questions raised by Otherworld are the shining moments of the book and I wish more time was spent diving into them. The Children were a fascinating subset of characters that I feel we barely scratched the surface on. I think we will encounter them in future books...but I wish more time was spent fleshing out their dilemma and their origins.
If you've played any MMORPGs before you will probably appreciate the various realms within Otherworld. I chuckled at Mammon which translates to anyone who is interested in inventory management and wealth accumulation in game (*cough* me *cough*). The jungle realm is essentially one big PvP arena. And the list goes on. Fun little nods to those types of players who play MMORPGs.
The book is dragged down somewhat by typical young adult characters. We have the rebellious teenage boy who is just "misunderstood" by his out of touch family. We have the damsel in distress...but not too much distress...that the boy is trying to rescue. Evil parents - either through deliberate maliciousness or being out of touch - make regular appearances as well. The characters seem a bit flat in light of the Otherworld backdrop.
I had one big issue with the book's plotting (spoiler ahead!): We spend most of the book trying to find Kat...where has Kat gone...how do we meet her at the Glacier...where is Kat...etc... Then Simon plugs back in at one point and -BAM- there's Kat. She's just...there. I remember feeling really irritated when I read that. We just spent 2/3 of the book on a search for Kat and there's no reward for it. He plugs back in and she's just there whispering to him to wake up in Otherworld? How...anticlimactic. I wanted more from their reunion...more from Simon finally catching up with Kat. It felt like it kind of fizzled.
I was rather let down by the ending as well. I thought it was a solid build up with a decent plot (despite the flat characters) only to have a trite and forecasted young adult ending. I also think the story was designed to leave on a cliffhanger and anxious for the next book, but I did not really find it so. I re-read the last few paragraphs just trying to see if I missed the big cliffhanger...but didn't see anything indicating a cliffhanger. It almost ends like the end of a chapter rather than the end of the book.
This one is falls between a 3.0 and a 3.5 in my opinion. I originally rated it a 4 star read, but after more consideration I just find that the characters and the rather "meh" ending knocks it down a peg. I still really enjoyed the book and I think this series has potential - especially as we dive into the questions that the Otherworld raises. As the series moves forward I do hope that the main characters of the story become as multi-faceted as the AI characters who dwell in Otherworld