Monday, April 2, 2012

ECHO'S REVENGE by Sean Austin

Title: ECHO'S REVENGE: The Ultimate Game Book 1
Author: Sean Austin
Publisher:  AAA Reality Games
Release Date: May 2012
Number of Pages: 281
Source of Book: ARC from Publisher

"Echo's Revenge: The Ultimate Game" is the story of 2 brothers, online game masters, who discover that the game creature which they have repeatedly killed while gaming online- "ECHO"- is alive and pursuing them in real life. Through their experiences engaging with this overwhelming opponent, they discover the power of their loyalty to each other as they defeat this seemingly invincible predator. This novel series is part of the on-going investigation taking place at Echohunt.com, which also features science, technology and engineering issues related to reality games.

Reggie Stone, age 14, and Jeremy Stone, age 11, are accomplished game masters. These 2 brothers prefer to live in the online world of gaming which they can control, rather than the explosive, unpredictable world of their mother and her boyfriend. In the online game world, Reggie and Jeremy battle monsters and can easily control their destiny- or so they think.

While participating in a focus group for AAA Reality Games, Reggie meets the top players of the online game "ECHO'S Revenge". What the gamers don't know is that during the focus group the latest evolution of the legendary shape-shifting game monster- ECHO-7- has become a sentient creature who closely monitors all of the game masters' self-admitted fears and weaknesses. When Reggie returns home, his mother's boyfriend has a dangerously violent outburst which forces Reggie and Jeremy to flee from their home. Unknown to them, the outburst is a blessing in
disguise.

As the boys start on their cross country journey to find their father, they begin to notice frequent Amber Alerts. What surprises them is that they recognize the kidnap victims in the alerts- they are all top gamers from the focus group. During their cross country journey, the boys hitch-hike with a variety of colorful characters and compile their own street code of life and ethics.

When ECHO tries to capture them outside a 7-Eleven convenience store in San Francisco, it finally reveals itself and the boys realize that it is the kidnapper of all of their fellow gamers. Confident after evading this terrifying enemy which knows far too much about them, the brothers arrive at their father's house only to be ambushed, kidnapped, and taken far away to be imprisoned in an abandoned mineral mine in the Mojave Desert. It is here, in a cauldron of underground enslavement with the other kidnapped game masters, that the boys are challenged beyond their physical and emotional limits as they learn the full impact of what ECHO-7 has become: an omnipotent God-like power.

Although face with probable death, the brothers decide to challenge ECHO. They engage the creature, and in doing so discover the power of their loyalty to each other as they defeat ECHO at its own game. In the creature's final moment of sentience, it realizes it's fatal error, and that it has "lost the game", but manages to commit one final act which haunts all of the gamers forever.
I was contacted by the publisher and asked to do a review of this book, especially because of it's appeal for boys and the recent educational interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curriculum. I was intrigued; however, was not able to find time to fit it into my review schedule. But, it sounded exactly like the type of book some of my students would love, so I read the summary to two of my boys who have read books like INSIGNIA, BRAIN JACK, THE MAZE RUNNER, EPIC, etc and loved them. They insisted that I had to accept the request and get this book for them to read. I agreed to do so under the stipulation that they had to write their thoughts afterwards, and the publisher was happy to send an advance copy for student-written reviews. After hearing what they had to say, I'm planning on adding this one to my to-read stack for the summer.

What follows is my students words and thoughts about ECHO'S REVENGE after they read it (and they loved it and are adamant that I need to get the next book if/when it comes out). ***Possible spoilers as written by students***
Student 1: There are only three books that I admire. The books are THE HUNGER GAMES, PERCY JACKSON, and ECHO'S REVENGE. ECHO'S REVENGE has a lot of action, adventure, and mystery. The action and adventure keep you at the edge of your seat wanting to read more. How would you like to be in a car going really fast or see a farting dog? Or what about a crow 33 feet in the air gliding towards you? What about two brothers fighint a 35 foot tall deadly creature and pushing it into a bottomless pit? This is why I can't wait till the next book!!
Student 2: ECHO'S REVENGE was a great book and definitely makes my top 10. I liked how the book kept you guessing. Most of the time I didn't know what was going to happen next. My favorite part is when all of the Echo gamers rebel against Echo in the Cauldron. I thought there were some slow parts such as when Jeremy and Reggie were planning to escape. But overall it is a great book and I would recommend it to anyone. The way it ends makes me want to read the next one. I never saw the whole virus thing coming.

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