The Game Is Altered by Mez Packer
Adopted African orphan, Lionel Byrd, spends the majority of this story suffering flashbacks to his traumatic childhood with his English adoptive parents and sadistic brothers. He struggles to make sense of his memories, helped only by his sister, Lilith — the only one of his siblings to treat him kindly.
When not reliving his childhood, Lionel spends his time in the gameworld of CoreQuest, where his heroic avatar, Ludi, can be the man he wishes he could be in real life.
Things start going awry when Lionel's life in the gameworld begins to increasingly bleed into his real life and he becomes caught up in the seedy underworld of people trafficking.
If you are looking for a fast paced action/adventure story, then this novel is not for you. If you like introspective character studies then you may be on firmer ground with this tale. The majority of the book is a slow burn, as we learn about Lionel's past through his returning memories, with the pace only picking up in the final few chapters, when the people trafficking part of the story comes to a head.
Each chapter alternates with a short section following Ludi's adventures in CoreQuest. These sections are written in a pseudo-Clockwork Orange prose style, where you can be hit on the 'nog' or punched in the 'fizog'. The language took a bit of getting used to at first, but soon became second nature when reading these sections.
I was going to give this novel three stars due to the slow pace in the first three quarters of the book, but the uptick in action and the revelations in the final chapters did enough to bump it up to four stars.
A decent story by an obviously talented writer. Recommended, but don't expect all out action and thrills.