Arena, by Holly Jennings

2016-03-28-arena-by-holly-jennings
Holly Jennings's novel Arena looks and sounds like a sci-fi novel, but it's really more of a near-future sports story. I'd like to think that the idea of virtual gaming tournaments watched by millions of rabid fans is pure fantasy, but apparently the future is now.

The heroine of Arena is Kali Ling, the first female captain in the Virtual Gaming League's RAGE tournament—an online battle that pits two teams of five against one another in a fight to the (virtual) death. In 2054, elite gamers need to be capable of the same physical feats as their avatars, so Kali and her teammates devote a huge portion of their time to real-world training. They are also heavily marketed celebrities, expected to be seen at a steady stream of clubs and social events. Combined with the actual games, this leaves almost no time for sleep, personal relationships, or privacy, leaving plenty of gamers just a few short steps from a full-blown breakdown.

Arena is Jennings's first book, and it shows: the dialogue is clunky, the plot and characters cliched, and she does almost nothing with her futuristic setting. These faults, however, are redeemed by the excellent action and training sequences. Arena might be more Karate Kid than Raging Bull, but it's still action-packed fun with a wholesome message and the literary equivalent of a training montage set to inspiring music, and there is always a market for that.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
arenaholly-jenningsfantasysci-fivideo-gamesaction-and-suspensebook
Posted by: Julianka

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