Matthew Moxon has a problem, he needs money fast or he’s going to die, but he’s broke. The only possible hope of earning the money is to enter a competition to the death. The only trouble is the other competitors are superhumans and he’s not.
Arena Mode is told from a first person perspective and has a distinctely young adult feel to it. However, that’s by no means a bad thing. The writing is accessible and easy to read, and it mostly keeps moving. I snatched little five minute reading sessions with this book over the last three weeks or so, as I’ve been busy, and it’s managed to bring me back into the story each time.
The characters and the world itself are believable. It’s not impossible to imagine the current world ending up as this one does: with a few people living in luxury and the rest confined to shanty towns due to poverty.
Where this book falls down is mostly on structure. We get an exciting introduction at the start of the book, where the main character is about to parachute into Manhantan, and then the book cuts to weeks earlier. Almost 50% of the book is then dedicated to build-up to the tournament. Which had me wondering when the action was going to start again.
The reason half the book is dedicated to things before the tournament is because of the huge amounts of information dumping in the book. Similar to Ready Player One, which also wanted to reveal the entire history of the world, this book tells you everything about the world. So much so, that it’s standing in the way of the story. Each time I was connecting with the characters, the book would break away to tell me about world events.
There was a similar problem with character backstories being dumped at inappropriate places. When two superhumans are about to fight, their fists crack together, and then we get several pages about one of the two people in the fight. I understand why it’s there: to make us feel sympathy, but it’s in the wrong place.
Which is why the structure felt off. There should have been an introductory phase where we learnt about the other competitors and their backstories. Or just drop it and convey their humanity through their actions before the battles, as Hunger Games did.
The only other downside was a noticeable amount of copy errors. However, they weren’t story breaking and may go unnoticed by a non-author reader. It’s a cost of learning tiny grammatical rules that they loom out at me from the text. However, it was surprising to see the book had had four editors and none of them caught the errors.
Where Arena Mode shines is in the writing style and the flow of the prose. Blake Northcott is an author who may well write a modern classic in years to come. I mentioned The Hunger Games because her writing feels as readable as Suzanne Collins.
Overall, I give Arena Mode 3/5 stars (4/5 on Amazon), meaning that I liked it. You can pick up a copy here:
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