"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis
WHAAAAAAAAT. My brain feels like it's going to explode after that mindfuck of a climax and cliffhanger. Okay, first things first. This book seems to be very polarizing in the blogging community in the way that Mind Games was and that, to me, is because they're written in similar ways. First person present, sharp writing (except in Elusion, you get more description of the surrounding world, Escapes, etc. because it is more heavily world-building focused than MG is). Huge focus on the thriller aspects, so the plot has to move at a fast pace and there's not much focus on the characters. What backstory you're given for the characters is to provide their motivations in the plot - the only one whose character arc I discerned was Regan, who goes from never wanting to enter Elusion again after her father's death to looking into the very heart of the program so to speak. (Maybe the mom too who stops being as grief-stricken, but she doesn't get much focus). And yet, as with Mind Games, one character relationship is at the forefront: instead of the sister relationship, it is the relationship between father and daughter.
Where Elusion distinguishes itself from other thrillers is in its world-building. As the summary states, Elusion is basically a virtual reality program that Regan's father creates because the world is dying (e.g. acid rain, depletion of oxygen levels, etc.). First off, I really like this idea. Many dystopians focus on how we've destroyed the earth and that's why things are so terrible; there is some element of this in Elusion, but since the father/daughter relationship is at the forefront, it fits that this idea - creating a program to honor the Earth as it once was - runs parallel to Regan honoring her father's memory. This is also an unspecified future - it may even be like an alternate reality type of future, since some elements of the world (e.g. file extensions like WAV) and plot twists (e.g. world-is-addictive; this is easy to see in our lives now with iPhones and certain tech, etc.) are familiar to our every day lives. A future with an Aesop maybe? At any rate, there are a lot, a lot of tech and future oriented terms (e.g. instant communication via smart walls, the transportation, O2 masks, etc.). I was a bit overwhelmed in the beginning, though it got better, and it's obvious how much these authors have thought about this world. Well-researched too. It's a meld of programming and neuroscience, and I actually wasn't bothered by the neuroscience explanations because *science* itself was not portrayed as magical (despite the alternate reality aspect - the addiction aspect counteracts that & also the fact that the authors pinpoint *specific* mechanisms within the body like serotonin release, brain waves, etc. grounds it in a way that some other far-reaching science fiction tales I've read do not) or inherently evil. I don't know much about programming, so though some reviews have brought that up as an issue, I can't say that those elements bothered me. Though they weren't as future oriented as the rest of the world (would file extensions change? I have no idea.), that seemed to fit with Elusion's blend of alternate reality/addiction/future/reality.
As for the plot, there are some plot holes (e.g. we find out information from random people a lot. Like a couple on an elevator, a saleswoman, etc.). The timeline of the story is what confused me the most because at one point, a love interest says that it's only been a week since they've known each other and I literally startled when I read that. I'd been wondering how much time had elapsed but was going along with the story anyway, and the knowledge of only a week felt strange - how did everything happen all at once? I could have also done without the love triangle. There's minimal waffling between romantic interests, but it's always really hard for me to believe in the best-friend-lusting-for-more scenario. At least with regards to the MC not noticing. Just a personal preference. BUT the plot was suspenseful and unpredictable and full of tension in a good way, making me eager to turn the pages because I was actually curious about what would come next -- nothing, of course, like what I had thought, as things were turned on their head, especially in the climax.
If I were to describe the plot and premise, it'd be something akin to "Matched meets These Broken Stars meets Under the Never Sky meets Crewel." Do I think that this book is really like all of those comparisons? No, I am just trying to decide what audience fits this book. The cover designer seems to have been inspired by Matched, certainly, and some of the plot elements are similar. It's got the basic premise of the seemingly ordinary girl uncovering the illusions of her seemingly perfect society. You know how in Matched, it's obvious that there's something wrong with the society? Same thing here. And the love triangle dynamic is similar, though here there's less waffling. The comparison to These Broken Stars comes from the character backstories - the rich girl who's privileged thanks to her father and the poorer military-esque guy uncover a mystery together except privilege doesn't get addressed as much here as it does in TBS. Under the Never Sky: the dangerous effects of virtual reality realms, though here you get to explore the Escapes for yourself more in depth than you do in UtNS. Crewel because the climax and some of the elements about the MC's powers reminded me of this story, and I'm being vague about that reference so I don't spoil anything. So, if you enjoyed those aspects of those books, you may enjoy Elusion. And if you'd want something like Mind Games in a futuristic science fiction setting, you may also enjoy Elusion.
I've been in the mood to write mini reviews, but as always, my reviews never end up remaining as "mini" as I think they will be.