When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual? Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone's deepest desires may be realized - even visits with Andrew. Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon's dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust, After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders' biggest challenge is determining what is real - and what is virtual. Nirvana is a fast-paced, page-turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so.
Nirvana was a quick and fairly enjoyable read. I really liked how the author used the novel to bring to life an interesting reflection on the world we live in. The starting point of this story is that Earth has been damaged too extensively by the savage exploitation of natural resources and the environment. After the extinction of several species, most importantly bees, humans are forced to retire in an artificial environment entirely controlled by the corporation Hexagon in order to survive. Throughout the novel, the author offers several reflection points on the environment and the power that is given to corporations in the contemporary era. I found this to be extremely interesting and well thought out, even though at times the things being said were slightly obvious or patronising. Still, it left me thinking a little more carefully about issues which I'm well aware of, but sometime just fall in the background.
As far as the actual plot goes, I was unimpressed by it. The whole book basically focuses on Kenders' search for Andrew, despite the fact that everyone keeps telling her that he's dead and in spite of the pressure Hexagon keeps putting on her to sign the papers that will make his death official. That's it. Not much else happens in the book... at all. There's a lot of talking and infodumps on virtual reality and how it works that really put a damper on my enjoyment of this book. Also, it ends with a BIG cliffhanger. Now, this is a purely personal point, but I loathe cliffhangers. So that was a definite no-no for me.
Kenders as a character, however, was very interesting. She has a very complex personality and definitely has a lot of issues that she is slowly working through. She is a woman trying to overcome past traumas and at the same time having to cope with grief, desperately attempting to figure out what is real and what isn't in a world invaded by virtual reality. Unfortunately, she was the only character to really come out of the book as one with a full personality. Even though it is entirely possible that the other characters could be better developed in the next books in the series (this is only the first book after all), I was disappointed to only see underdeveloped characters at play.
Overall, Nirvana was an enjoyable read, but not one that blew me away. It had the potential to do a lot more than it actually does, but I hope this flaw will be corrected in the next books in the series.