Review Blog

Nov 29 2012

Maze cheat by B.R. Collins

cover image

Bloomsbury, 2012. 310p. ISBN 9781408827604
(Age: 12+) Fans of Game runner, will need no recommendation for the sequel, complete with a female protagonist rather than a male 'Gamerunner'.
The citizens of Ario's dystopian future world are forced indoors by toxic acid rain that erodes skin and eyes, unless one can afford protective clothing. Naturally, many are drawn into the challenge of the world of virtual computer games. Ario is a 'Cheat' by trade, assisting players in their attempts to beat various levels of 'The Maze', an interactive computer game designed and operated by an all-powerful corporation called Crater. Ario, considered by many to be the best Cheat, is able to make a good living at Dion's underground 'tankshop' by selling her cheat codes.
Since the expansion of The Maze by Crater, Ario's cheats appear to fail just as Gamerunners conquer 'the roots', harming more than just her reputation. To redeem herself, Ario develops a cheat to take a beautiful female Gamerunner, Pir to the 'end game'. But a brief, although subtly homoerotic friendship foreshadows Pir's death in The Maze. Afterwards, the divide between reality and virtual reality becomes murky as Ario alone realizes that Pir's thoughts and experiences have been used to expand the game worlds further. Like writers of The Matrix, Collins explores the mind-body conundrum as we grapple with our perceptions of reality and the final paradox of losing in order to win and vice versa.
Rick, the prodigal son of Crater's chief programmer, Daedalus (undoubtedly named after the creator of The Labyrinth in Greek mythology), is rescued by Dion's Tankshop and eventually both Ario and Dion agree that he is their best shot at stopping Crater from devouring more minds and lives.
Maze Cheat will appeal to teenagers as it is set in a very gloomy, dystopian city. There's a futility in the restrictive indoor landscape, leading to recreational drug taking and an obsession with virtual worlds. However, the writing is fast-paced and we have to admire the complex relationships between the characters - they struggle to comprehend their own inner worlds as much as they seek to overcome their political and environmental powerlessness. Ario's drive to survive and thrive in an ugly world dominated by an evil conglomerate, is probably a more resonant rite of passage than most.
Deborah Robins

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