Only twelve-year-olds can save the world
In a futuristic society where almost everything has gone online, Rogan spends a lot of his time playing the game Laser Viper, a virtual reality war-type Mutliplayer Online Role Playing Game. He doesn't like to have to rely on the group, and wants to always be the best, even if it means not giving others an equal chance. His parents are both very busy online as well, with his father involved in another MORPG and his mother the founder of an online forum about technology. He spends a lot of time in Virtual City, where he even has his own apartment where he doesn't feel quite as alone, especially when he puts a VR headset on his dog, Wiggles, so the dog can accompany him! When the creator of Virtual City, William J. Calum, shows up at his door, Rogan doesn't believe it's really him, but believes him when he is invited to participate in a Laser Viper Final Challenge, since her's one of the best young gamers. His parents approve, even though it will mean having limited contact with him while the competition is going on, and soon he is off to meet the other combatants in the reality show. He knows Shay online, and the two frequently spar about who is the better player. There is also Takashi, who takes the role of the Healer and works well with other, Beckett, who is an egocentric jerk, and Jacqueline, who is the engineer and hopes to use her winnings to fund her college studies. The group, except for Beckett, works well together, and complete several training missions, getting used to the virtual reality suits that make the game more life like. After Beckett is voted off, the missions get more involved and more potentially deadly. By the time it is just Rogan and Shay, things look suspicious, and the former players get in contact with the current ones to let them know that their virtual battles are actually taking place in reality. Calum and his Atomic Frontier corporation has designs on detroying the important Sun Station One, and a rival organization, Scorpion, is trying to save the children as well as the world. Is it even possible to do this, or are Calum's plans too far gone?
Rogan starts off as kind of a jerk, which is not all that surprising considering how preoccupied his parents are. He attends Steve Jobs Middle School, which is also online, so has had very little actual social interaction in his life that is not virtual. Dealing with actual people is much harder! He does learn to work with his teammates and starts to realize the benefits of collaboration.
Calum and his Atomic Frontier corporation seem legitimate at the beginning, but the slowly emerging Ender's Game quality of his organization is chillingly revealed. Of course, only twelve-year-olds can save the world, and the five best candidates are those who excel at video games. Makes complete sense, right? This is the best kind of escapist fantasy for tween readers who believe that if the video game plan doesn't work out, surely their back up of playing professional basketball will!
There is room for a sequel, and I would love to see Mr. Reedy (Stealing Air, Words in the Dust) put his writing talents to work on more of Rogan's adventures.