Author: Tony Bertauski
Series: The Socket Series #1
Pages: 282 (paperback)
16-year-old Socket Greeny and his friends spend most of their time in virtualmode, the futuristic equivalent of World of Warcraft. One day, when they decide to hop online during school, they are ambushed and something unexpected happens; Socket dies. In between the Rift and reality, a hazy shadow appears before him, announcing that his powers have been awakened. When he wakes up in the real world, Socket learns that he is no ordinary boy. He actually has the powers of a Paladin--a mentally advanced member of a secret society dedicated to protecting the human race. Now with the ability to stop time and read thoughts, Socket's mother takes him underground to be monitored and trained. There, he discovers a world of wormholes, robots, and unusual creatues that he never believed existed beyond his wildest dreams, and it is there that he learns that a war is approaching. Clones are planning to escape virtualmode and take over reality. With the help of his new powers and his best friends, Chute and Streeter, Socket knows that he is the only one who can prevent them from escaping the digital world.
Bertauksi starts out the first book in his series strong, immediately throwing Socket into life-changing digital mayhem within the first chapter. Though it grabbed my attention, in a sense it was a bit too strong. There is no opprotunity to see the depth of Socket's friendship with his two best friends, and as a result, they just become names that Socket misses when he is taken underground and studied by the Paladin Agency. This is sort of a shame because Chute and Streeter play an enormous role towards the end of the book. Socket himself is a very likeable character. He curses quite a bit, but the salty languge only works to create a more authentic character. He thinks, feels, and acts like a high school kid with a chip on his shoulder, but not to the point where he is annoying.
The middle of the book (when Socket is taken underground) is met with lots of cool new technology and fantastical elements. In a way, Bertauski has blended elements of everyone's favorite sci-fi flicks to create this futuristic Paladin-protected world. We get wormholes, computer-like wrist watches, robots with artificial intelligence, virtual realities, hoverboards, and then some! Sci-fi geeks and non-geeks alike will have no trouble keeping up with the new terminology and technological concepts because most of them are well described or are grounded enough in today's technology that they don't need to be described to death.
The story doesn't really pick up until the middle of the book, but when it does, boy does it pick up. Once Socket is released from Paladin custody, I could not put this book down. Socket's friends come back in a series of action-packed scenes that would not only make Tom Cruise geen with envy, but show a genuine friendship between the three that was not shown us before in the beginning of the book. Seriously, you can't get anymore extreme then fighting giagantic robotic spiders trapped in a virtual RPG world.
Overall, the book ends on a great note. This was probably the best sci-fi/cyberpunk story that I've read in a long time, regardless of my complaints about the beginning. I really can't wait to start reading the second book in the series!
*Thanks to Tony Bertauski for providing me with a copy of the book! For more information about the Socket series, check out his website.