The premise of Arispe’s ‘Pixeldust’ is a fun and quirky one, whereby the protagonist experiences another life while playing an online enhanced VR computer game. But which one is more real?
It’s an idea we’ve encountered before, but not often so knowingly; Arispe’s gaming background is obvious here, and there are tips of the hat aplenty for RPG fans everywhere.
It is a little overwritten, some of the character voices unfortunately blend together a little, and it was in places a tad predictable (although perhaps that’s due to my geeky love of RPG tropes), but it is still a charming and gentle adventure story for all that.
Having read her bio, I’d expected to see more of Arispe’s off-beat sense of humour come through in the writing, which is perhaps something to be explored. I also can’t see what audience the book is aimed at, but am guessing that it is in the YA bracket.
For that market, I’d give it 3.5*
Maria Elena thought she’d sworn off gaming forever. But she hates her new internship, so her brother Balt convinces her to play Heroes of Avonell, a cutting-edge virtual-reality video game with such complex programming that it’s like the non-player characters are self-aware.
Disappointed with the usual cliché job class offerings, Maria Elena’s character Quinny stumbles through a glitch in the game and ends up in Caed Dhraos, a strange city populated with friendly monsters. Quinny decides to work for the resident dark lord as part of his magic personnel, but she can’t tell anybody she’s playing in off-limits areas of the game—not even Balt. Soon Quinny finds herself getting to the bottom of a mystery surrounding an ancient demon and why Caed Dhraos is suffering from the Blight.
But the artificial intelligences in the game really are self-aware, and some of Avonell’s so-called “heroes” have decided they don’t like humanity very much. The game has gone out of control, and Maria Elena and her new friends have to find a way to set things right. Can she save Avonell – and Earth – while juggling her real job and trying to salvage her crumbling relationship with her brother?
Pixeldust is a dive into a fantastical, fun virtual world where the universe may be made of data, but the dangers, friendships, magic, and lessons learned are very real.