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.hack// Another Birth 2: mutation by Miu Kawasaki
Review by Colleen Cahill
TokyoPop Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 1598164481
Date: 10 October, 2006 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

When reading a book, it is important to consider the audience being targeted. The charm of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are evident even when the composition is not at an adult level. Simply written books have their own appeal, as in the case of Mutation, the second volume in the .hack//Another Birth series: a quest in the fantasy game The World strives to discover why some players have fallen into mysterious comas.

Akira Hayami, who joined The World as a sword-woman known as BlackRose, is still searching for the reason her brother is in a coma and, more importantly, how to bring him back to consciousness. Not only is she looking for answers in the game, but she even roots through Fumikazu's room, trying to locate clues. Life is a delicate balance for Akira, who spends time exploring in The World, studying for school, keeping her place as one of the few freshmen on the tennis team and all the while not letting her parents know she is up to more than the average school girl. With the help of her gaming friends Kite and Mistral, Akira tracks down some leads through a poem, Epitaph of Twilight. While the group makes some headway in the mystery, they are shocked to find that some of the chaos taking place in The World seems to be affecting the real world: could their attempts at help be setting loose a greater evil?

Mutation is a work for young readers and has a very simple style, a good choice for those who a looking for a fast-paced book that is not too challenging. Although I was able to figure out most of the back story as I went along, it is highly recommended to start with the first volume. Many plot points from the earlier work were just alluded to, such as Akira's being bullied by upper classmates. The book also uses acronyms with no explanations and it was only due to my past experience in role playing games that I knew how to define NPC. For a young adult who is an avid video gamer, this series is not only a book, but also a Play Station game of the same name, a link that might be enough to get a reluctant reader to try the book, especially with the full page illustrations scattered through the text. Unlike some manga, there are no racy parts in Mutation, and I would not hesitate to give it to anyone over the age of 10.

If you are looking for an action-packed series aimed at virtual reality gaming, the .hack//Another Birth series would be a good place to start. It would be a great gift for a young person, one that you could share or even read to each other.

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