A brilliant slice of near-future dystopia
You create the fantasy. They control your mind.
Cassie worked at Imagen, the tech giant behind the cutting-edge virtual reality experience Make-Believe™, and she got to know the product well. Too well.
Now Cassie has been blocked from her escape from the real world, and legally gagged by the company. Her dream job now seems to be part of a larger nightmare, and Imagen is not done with her yet.
With Imagen holding all the cards, and personal and public freedoms at stake, how far will Cassie go to end the deception?
I found the whole concept of this book fascinating and entirely plausible. The idea that virtual reality is suddenly no longer limited by what can be designed, and only by what you can imagine. Who wouldn’t get addicted to something as powerfully emotive as that?
The book hooks you in straight away. You know Cassie has lost her job and has been barred from ever using Make-Believe™, but you don’t know why. You also don’t know why she is estranged from her family and friends but her isolation is one of the aspects that has you rooting for her from the start. Cassie is a great character. Her struggle with addiction to Make-Believe™ was so believable and raw, it was no surprise to realise that the author has experience of working with people in recovery from substance abuse. She is realistically flawed, yet passionate about getting to the truth.
I also really liked the structure of the book. Most of the narrative is told from Cassie’s POV, but occasionally chapters are told from the perspective of another character. This is done seamlessly and adds another dynamic to what we know about Cassie.
The story starts off building slowly and I found myself racing through chapters to unravel the mystery of what had happened. It builds to a really satisfying and exciting climax which did not leave me disappointed. (There was a moment where it did start to get into 'inception' territory and I was a tad confused about what was real and what wasn’t, but if you just go with it and don’t get too hung up on the detail, it all comes good in the end.)
This book was absolutely up my street – being a little bit sci-fi, a little bit dystopian and a lot about the relationships built up between people, and how difficult it can be to let go. It was a lot of fun to read and I can’t wait for more from this author.
About the author:
Jane Alexander has completed a PhD in creative writing and teaches at the University of Edinburgh and the Open University. For several years she ran creative writing workshops for people in recovery from substance abuse. Her first novel was The Last Treasure Hunt (Saraband 2015).
A User's Guide to Make-Believe was released on 23rd January 2020 by Allison & Busby
Big thanks to @annecater at Random things tours, for organising and inviting me to take part in the blog tour. This is my honest and unbiased opinion.