Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review: Nirvana by J.R. Stewart

Nirvana by J.R. Stewart

Series: Nirvana (book #1)
Publisher: Blue Moon
Release Date: 10th November 2015
Read Date: 19th February 2016
Tagged Under: 2016 read, 3, book review, review copy, science fiction, YA fiction
Check It Out @Amazon, @TheBookDepository, @GoodReads

Book Summary

When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual? 
Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone's deepest desires may be realized - even visits by Andrew. 
Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon's dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kender's biggest challenge is determining what is real - and what is virtual.

Book Review

I requested Nirvana by J.R. Stewart on a whim. The plot synopsis sounded really tight and interesting, and the cover is simply stunning. I went into this novel with anticipation of an amazing science fiction series filled with action.

I got it. Mostly.

Set in a futuristic setting where reality intermingles with virtual technology, Larissa Kenders and her soulmate, Andrew, are seemingly doing fine whilst pursuing their individual dreams. Larissa is a heavy animal activist who hopes to inspire her fans to follow her aspiration to creating a better world for future generations through her music. Andrew is working for Hexagon, the conglomeration who controls almost everything left on Earth after the Extinction, on research and development. Everything seemed to be going well until one day, Andrew disappears and Hexagon is demanding Larissa handover everything that he had been working on.

One of the highlights from this novel is the author's knowledge regarding advanced technology. Having worked in IT in the past, heavily involved in "VR" technologies, J.R. Stewart knows the details when it comes to the technology of the future. Yet at the same time, Stewart manages to make it engaging and simple enough that even laymen understand the basic concepts of virtual reality. The endless possibilities offered by such technology is mind-boggling and I really enjoyed reading about them.

In addition, the plot is tightly written with plenty of twists and turns. It reads very much like an action or thriller film. However, it wasn't what I expected it to be. Instead of  science fiction, Nirvana really gives me the sense of a dystopian novel. Despite the confusion as to which genre Nirvana is set in, the pace of the plot is steady and keeps the reader entertained. 

However, I had trouble immersing myself into the story. I boiled it down to mainly two things: world building and character development. At 186 pages, Nirvana is a relatively short novel and a quick read. And I think it really could have benefited from some additional length. There is some inkling of how life in Nirvana works - lack of water in the reserve, dust everywhere - but beyond that, I had trouble imagining how the world is set up. The disparity between super advanced technology and the lack of basic necessity such as food and water seems very paradoxical and I think some additional description exploring this could have really lifted the story.

Secondly, I really struggled to engage with any of the characters. I admire Larissa for being smart and fiercely independent and stout in her beliefs and ideals. However, beyond that, I really didn't engage with her struggles as the main protagonist. And Larissa's chemistry with Andrew (as well as other male characters in the story) just didn't seem realistic enough for me to be invested in them as a couple. The rest of the cast is also a bit lacklustre.


Overall, there are elements of the story I really enjoyed. However, I feel the story just needed a bit more depth to really lift it to the next level. 

Disclaimer: a complimentary copy was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed above are entirely my own and are in no way affected by the source of this book.

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