MetaWars: The Dead are Rising by Jeff Norton (MetaWars: Book 2)

In an unforgiving future, two warring factions - the Millennials and the Guardians - are locked in a brutal battle over control of an online virtual world called the Metasphere. Jonah Delacroix has always known which side he’s on - the same side as his dead father. But when he assumes his father’s avatar, he learns that things aren't as black and white as he once believed. He’s catapulted into a full throttle race through both worlds - but can he find the truth?

Finishing this book just 10 minutes ago my mind is still buzzing with excitement with the whole concept of Metawars: Fight for the Future. It is quite an advanced book for a younger audience, giving a take on how dependent we have become on certain things and what this might translate into in the near future. Even though this book is targeted for children age 9 and up it still got my heart racing a few times.

One theme that is quite noticeable from the start is the dystopian theme. Fight for the Future is set in the beginning chapters in a destroyed England, where the leading governments of most of the countries have fallen bankrupt. But what was for me quite evident from only a few pages is, after the first introduction of the VR world the Metasphere was the hinting of seeking escape. What makes Metawars a great and to a certain degree - in my case - compelling read is the combination of a dystopian world, where people are fighting in what once was prosperous England to get by with a escapism theme sought in the Metasphere. It is just what Jeff mentioned to me, something that you see quite more often in youth. There is an advancement in the growth of technology and the ease in which it allows us to be indulged therein. Technological addictions are quite easily made, our society has become quite reliant on several advances... just sending an email, a tweet or a text is hard to pass by daily. I was very pleased to have found this second aspect in MetaWars and that it was incorporated in a neat way, showing of a certain necessity, compulsion and “drug-like/narcotic” effect the Metasphere had on specific characters in the book. But that’s enough for a philosophical reflection on where we are going. This might be passed by the younger readers who see this book as they will probably see the use of technology like plugging yourself into a virtual world and a great load of action. So on to the other good stuff.

There is the Metasphere, but getting access to it, is by plugging yourself in - literally - using the direct like that you have in your spinal cord with a Ethernet jack. Thereby allowing the system to interact with your central nervous system. This was a cool aspect that I think will appeal to many of the younger readers, though for people who know The Matrix it might be somewhat familiar. However after entering the Metasphere you are projected in an “avatar” as to how your mind sees yourself and this can range from a small frog to a big elephant or just being a ordinary reflection of yourself, a humatar. Inside the Metasphere, the sky is the limit. Everything is possible and there are even further enhancements and some limitations depending on the form of you “avatar”. All in all the Metasphere was nicely constructed and served its purposes fully on both a small and a larger scale. Using this Metasphere for socializing, going to school, a marketplace and much more, played directly into the way as to how people can get addicted to it. Some people even going as far as to stay online and letting their real life bodies be taken care off.

In MetaWars: Fight for the Future there are two factions that are at war with each other. The Millennials and the Guardians. Both think that their cause is just and both are fighting for the control of the Metasphere. The Guardians have the motive that they want to stop the suppression of the Millenians and make Metasphere free for everyone. The Millennials want to have control over the Metasphere by a single leader. The creator Matthew Granger leads the Millennials. There is a lot of dirt throwing but also physical contact, bombing and gunfights between the factions, that lead up to quite some stirrings in the book. But for me both of the factions have good and bad arguments. There was a great development of Jonah’s character to see him being approached by both factions this gave his character more depth, showing his inner struggles to do what he thinks is right, but having both faction talking into his ear of what is best… often times confusing him.

As for the characters that make an appearance there is Jonah Delacroix, the main protagonist. Jonah is a very relatable character. After his father passed away and the shop of his mother and father went out of business he feels obliged to help his mother to get by in their daily lives. In his struggles to get more money to buy food etc. he is making sacrifices. You can just feel the weight of this on his shoulders, and I think that due to this fact he is seeking relief in the Metasphere. But soon, his life turns 180 degrees and upside down. Being confronted by both the Millennials and the Guardians, he throws away, albeit somewhat reluctantly, his earlier beliefs for the Millennials and gets to know the cause of the Guardians. Then again you get the feeling that he is not fully giving in. In the ending this is more than true. Showing a eye opening dialogue between Matthew and Jonah, might turn Jonah back again. And he is still puzzling if he has made the right decision... and is it too late to turn back? Another character that made up a large part of the story is Samantha, whom Jonah meets as he travels along with the Guardians. Samantha stood up for Jonah on more than one occasion and though being older than Jonah, there might be some spark in between them. Samantha on her own can stand her ‘man” quite well. Though if she is full-fledged Guardian, I do not know. Next to Jonah and Sam there are many other characters but they stay somewhat more on the background. Even though they do not have a starring role, they did not feel as empty husks.

Then there is just the bad guy left, or is he? This is still a part open for debate. Matthew Granger founder of Metasphere, creating it for a place to be normal and to escape to after his accident. He has much support in the Metasphere itself, but also a lot of haters. Although he is shown as a somewhat ruthless man, he does have some convincing arguments. Where the Millennials have Matthew the Guardians also have someone behind them, Mr. Chang, who wants to destroy the Metasphere and in this cause he wants to make his own sphere, the Changsphere. Who is actually the most dangerous one I still trying to figure out. Showing both of the factions and leaving you in the dark gives me the urge to find out how this series will continue.

For a conclusion I must say that Metawars is a phenomenal read that challenged me to think and re-think about escaping reality. Again I want to stress the fact that using this dystopian setting with the escapism theme was just brilliant gave a very, very fruitful and enjoyable story. The characters were great and felt relatable. Using opposite factions The Guardians and the Millenials, with both bad and good arguments as to why their cause is better than the others. The plot line itself shown a few twists and turn. MetaWars: Fight for the Future was more than I expected and is definitely a world that I would like to plug into again.

9/10 Jeff Norton continues the great MetaWars series.

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