Thursday, 5 November 2015

Review: Nirvana by J.R. Stewart

Title: Nirvana
Author: J.R. Stewart
Publisher: Blue Moon Publishing
Release Date: 10th November

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 with 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, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.

Nirvana is a fast-paced, page-turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so.

***Revised Review***

I was lucky enough to receive a revised arc for Nirvana and incredibly impressed by the changes that have been made to turn this first part of the trilogy into an even more intriguing read.

Andrew & Larissa (Kenders) are engaged to be married having met whilst studying at university. Andrew is a head programmer at Nirvana, Hexagon's virtual reality system, where he takes his scientific research beyond the boundaries of conventional medical treatment. Kenders also works at Nirvana. Before her move to Hexagon, she was the lead singer of Sextet Sixty; a punk band singing reactionary songs to promote their animal rights activism.

Life as Kenders' knows it comes crashing down around her after she's told of Andrew's death. She sees his charred remains, but starts getting short messages from him during her mandatory time in Nirvana. Knowing she shouldn't trust anyone including Corporal, Terk and her life long friend Serge. She begins collecting clues for the man she still loves and believes is still alive. With her life in danger, can she avoid being killed at the hands of Andrew's power hungry ex Paloma? Why is she collecting items for Andrew? Is he really alive or is this just a ploy by Hexagon to get their hands on Andrew's missing research?

I'm impressed that I was able to follow the narrative, understanding the science fiction aspect more easily this time around. The author has done a fabulous job of turning Nirvana from a good, enjoyable read (in my previous opinion) to a fascinating, page-turner, leaving me eager to know what fate has in store for the protagonists. As a romance reader, the one thing that'd liked to have seen the author inject more emotion and feeling into the characters, in particular Larissa. This would add a much needed dimension to her relationships with Andrew and Serge.

This is an impressive début novel for J.R. Stewart, who has succeeded in making me want to continue this thought provoking story.

4 stars

***arc generously received courtesy of Blue Moon Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***