Vicarious by Rhett C. Bruno: A Review

First off, thanks to Netgalley and Podium audio for the review copy of Vicarious on audiobook.

After being disappointed with some other Truman Show-esque stories that have been released lately, I can say with enjoyment that this was a fairly enjoyable experience. Told from two perspectives, we have Asher and Mission, Asher the director of Ignis: Live, and Mission, the girl who has been a part of the VR reality show her whole life- without knowing it. The premise is basically that there’s one world where everyone communicates via VR and the other universe that is an entire population of people who believe they are the final survivors of humanity, and we’re seeing those two worlds from the perspective of Asher and his obsession with Mission, and Mission, who has immense love for her community without ever feeling as though she fit within it.

This one interested me mainly because I am such a big fan of Wil Wheaton. I was a fan of the ill-fated “Wil Weaton Project,” which was the magnificent sci-fi/fantasy version of The Soup that I miss to this day. I wanted to hear his round as a sci-fi audiobook narrator, and I can’t say I was disappointed. I was a little underwhelmed, but not disappointed.

Katherine McNamara is the star of this narration, which took me off guard. I was not a fan of many of Katherine McNamara’s television projects, so being as enamored as I was with her audiobook narration style was not what I was expecting. Wil Wheaton embodied the character he was playing, but his narration was not nearly as emotional and expressive as Katherine McNamara’s. Her character’s perspective might have been one I found irritating, but Katherine McNamara spoke with such complexity and nuance that I found myself loving the character of Mission by the end of the book.

I liked the ending, I liked the commentary the book was making, I liked the strangeness of the world- I didn’t like the way that people with strange hairstyles or alternative lifestyles were depicted. The only character who shows any semblance of being non-heteronormative is a villain- a woman who preys on other woman and augments her breasts to be larger than life. Everyone else fits within the male/female structure. The whole premise of the Ignis spaceship is that people can’t have sex to create children- it’s described as if without this, there is no enjoyable sex to be had, and there’s also no love. Not a fan of that whole dynamic.

Do with all of this what you will. I don’t regret reading this book, and I’m sure I’ll be recommending it to individuals who I think would jive with it, but it’s not my favorite of the year. It’s a good, solid read- an even more fun one with the actors who had the chance to narrate it.

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