In the opening pages of Epic: The Game, author Jack Kaminskie spells out an ambitious metaphysical vision, one that posits human reality as a high-tech simulation.
Kaminskie presents this idea—a holographic, malleable reality with innumerable parallel spin-offs—through the words of Bryson Carmichael. Carmichael is a developer pitching a virtual reality game like no other: one where players—equipped with virtual reality goggles and gloves—tap into an alternate world where players confront demons and fears along the way. The game carries consequences in “real life”; if a player in the online world is injured during gameplay, those injuries appear in the waking, non-virtual world.
The full costs of the “Epic” game become clear after the game has successfully drawn hordes of players. Billy Middleton is one of those players, and the typical American teenager has beat all of the game’s 20 levels when his family discovers him dead in the basement, with the “Epic” logo tattooed on his pupils.
Billy’s father John learns his son may still be alive in the depths of the game and dons the goggles and gloves to bring him back. His journey through the game opens a host of puzzles, battles and mazes that eventually lead to questions about the nature of existence.
Kaminskie’s prose is full of tech references: VR platforms, Apple laptops, video game consoles, etc. The approach adds authenticity to the descriptions of the gaming world, but it also makes the book’s more personal stretches – character interactions, descriptions of emotional responses, etc. – feel somewhat wooden. The problem is exacerbated by long stretches of dialogue, overreliance on passive voice, and the theoretical components about human existence.
For average readers, the density of the concept may feel overwhelming at times. But this commitment to detail in service of a complex conceit will likely be compelling for gamers and technophiles. It takes patience to reach the payoff, but those who persevere will encounter genuinely profound, thought-provoking questions.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.