Review Blog

Apr 11 2012

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

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Translated by Judith Pattinson. Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 978 1 74237 953 1.
(Ages: 14+) Computer games. Sharp eyed Nick Dunmore sees small parcels being exchanged amongst the students at his school. His best friend, Colin is out of reach, will not speak to him at school, avoids any eye contact, does not answer his email or phone and seems to be creating a relationship with the two geeks in their class. Others are acting oddly as well, but when he corners one of them, he realises that they are all playing a game, a computer game with bizarre rules about communication, a game which seems to intrude on real life. When he is passed the disc, he too sees just how addictive the game can be, and from the start, the reader gets the feeling that these kids are being manipulated. Wishing to move from level two to three, the messenger offers him this option as long as he introduces another person, and gives him details about another boy in his class. The alert reader is aware that more is going on, but Nick is flattered and involved. Nick, now Sarius, must choose weapons, a name and skills to go into the game, and he finds that fighting to create a foothold on the next level requires some daring and skill. At times he must fight to the death. With the energy and seduction of a serial seen every Saturday at the local picture theatre (yes, I am that old!) this becomes an exciting read as Nick moves from one level to another, following the instructions and requests from the messenger.
When Nick is asked to put a drug in his teacher's thermos, the teacher who is asking questions and raising concerns, Nick baulks and in so doing is kicked out of the game. He desperately tries to get back into the game but when his best friend, Jamie is knocked off his bicycle and almost killed, Nick begins to see something sinister is happening, and so takes action, joining others to find the evil behind the game.
Slow to start, the book builds quickly into an absorbing thriller. Just like the game we are led down different paths, some dead ends, some red herrings, but all the while being led on to a stunning conclusion.
Smoothly translated, this book won the Youth Jury Award in the 2011 German Youth Literature Prize.
Fran Knight

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