The Forever Contract – Avery Sawyer

This is a short novella in the burgeoning YA dystopian fiction genre.

There are some really good ideas here. The underlying main concept is fantastic. A world where you can choose to have your consciousness uploaded into a virtual world. Still being able to interact with those in the “real” world via computers screens is fascinating. The idea of watching those you know in their self-created virtual worlds. Even the reasoning behind why this is happening works – water shortages that cause wars, arid land that won’t support crops. Then throw in an undercurrent of suspicion. A few that don’t believe everything they are being told. The set up and the background are great.

Where this novella lets the reader down is in the execution.

Perhaps it is because the concept is too large to be contained in a novella, but the entire story feels rushed and lacking.

The bare bones are there but nothing is given depth or fleshed out. The main characters, Casey and James, are mere facades. They are not real people yet who encourage the reader to become attached. The potential is there.

Casey is a young woman about to make a huge life altering decision. Her boyfriend James is facing the same decision. But the entire tension between their differing views is played out in grade school type dialogue that is far too simplistic for what should be complex and deeply layered emotions.

The same happens in what should be climactic moments. They end up falling flat because the reader has not suspended that disbelief and embraced the world Sawyer is trying to create.

This disappointed me. I wanted more. If the time were taken to develop this into a full length series (if properly fleshed out I easily see 2 books just with what story is already there and a 3rd or even 4th book of what is hinted and left unanswered) it could be mesmerizing. I want to know what the secrets are. What caused the water wars? What is really going on in Chicago? What is the real purpose behind the uploads? What was James’ mom doing?

There is a lot of potential. But it cannot be recognized until the story, the world and most importantly the characters are fully realized. This means giving the depth and complexity they now lack.

 I was given a free copy of this novella to review. And while happy to have had the chance to glimpse what could be, I would not have purchased this in its current form.

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