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Vicarious by Paula Stokes
Cover Artist: Craig White
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Teen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765380944
Date: 16 August 2016 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Not everything is as it appears in this thriller. Winter Kim and her sister Rose have had a difficult life. Abandoned by their Korean mother, adopted and abused, and finally escaping to start over in St. Louis as illegal aliens. Each series of events leaves a mark on the girls. But at least they have each other, until Rose disappears.

The girls are able to make a living by being performers in Vicarious Sensory Experiences (ViSE). ViSEs allow users to experience the sights, sounds, and emotions of the performer from the safety of a viewer. The activities that Rose and Winter chose to record are very different.

When Rose goes missing, Winter starts to investigate the weeks that came prior to Rose's disappearance. Her friends try to help and protect her, but something seems a little off. What she discovers is so much more than she ever expected.

I really like the idea of the ViSE. There would be great potential for experiencing dangerous activities. Some of which are explored in this novel. A similar idea was explored at the beginning of the Safehold series by David Weber. In that series, Picas are used to do dangerous activities and the events are downloaded to the human. In future volumes, I hope to see more exploration of the potential of the devices.

There are some twists and turns in the story, which should allow readers to realize what has happened before the protagonist realize it. This isn't a flaw. It is part of the design. Winter's life is more complex and horrific than you first realize. There is a theory that writer's must torture their characters, after reading the wringer through which Winter is put, I believe I've seen a perfect example of that phenomena.

This is not part of an established series, but the start of a new one. There are no barriers to entry for readers. The story is told from the first person perspective. Although the character is a teen, I would not consider this a YA novel. Too many activities are out of the YA experience.

I was at a book festival and I found myself describing this book to a friend. The technology and its uses were a point of interest to us both. After several minutes of discussion, I recognized that this novel really spoke to me. The mix of action, mystery, and world building was great. I look forward to Winter's continuing adventures.

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