Title: Thousand Tales: How We Won the Game
Author: Kris Schnee
Series: Thousand Tales
We Found Paradise. Now What?
Student Paul Kostakis has caught the attention of Ludo, an Artificial Intelligence obsessed with games and stories. In return for a few little favors, she’s offering “brain uploading”. She can fatally dice your brain, scan it, and recreate you in a virtual-reality heaven she controls. You can do anything in there: become a griffin, upgrade your mind, fall in love, or go mad.
When Paul accepts Ludo’s offer, sooner than he would’ve liked, he learns that people can find real problems even in a digital world. One of them is that Ludo has powerful opponents who want to shut her down, bring death to her immortal people, and end her game forever.
Source: Review copy from the author via email
This clever, intriguing sci-fi tale is more of a collection of short stories with an overriding narrative than a single plot novel. It follows the development of the Thousand Tales world from a simple interactive game run by an AI (Ludo) designed purely to let humans have fun, right through the brain-uploading phase into a fully realised interactive world (Talespace), where people escape from our world into that and live out their greatest wishes and dreams. Not to mention the rivals that want to stop Ludo and the thoughts and conflicted emotions of those who don’t quite know what to think about her.
It’s all set in a near-future version of our world, where Paul is a young man with a bright future ahead of him. Possibly. He’s certainly smart enough for it, but his mandatory community service is wearing him down and a petty tyrant is threatening to hold him back from moving ahead. Which is how he ends up playing Thousand Tales, meeting Ludo and changing the course of his life forever. Paul isn’t the only human character we follow in this novel, but he’s the most central to Ludo and her development. He’s the pro-Ludo camp, throwing himself into her adventures and immersing himself in her world.
I actually found Paul a bit hard to like, and some of his decisions were hard to fathom. He’s very straight forward, not simple as such, but for someone of his supposed intelligence he lacked the complexity I needed to be interested in him.
The flip-side of Paul is Linda. It’s not that she’s anti-Ludo, but she definitely questions everything about her and is willing to challenge the AI’s methods and motives. For me she was a much more compelling character than Paul, though again there were times when I felt like her emotions were a touch too simplistic for the character she was. I kept wanting to like her, yet couldn’t quite.
That was my main problem with this book, actually – the characters. The story, the world, the layers of the plot are all clever and interesting and well told, but the characters never quite grabbed me in the way I need in order to love something. Characters are everything to me when it comes to loving a book, so while I could enjoy and admire this book purely from the storytelling aspects, I never fell in love with it.
It might also have been nice to have had some viewpoints that were a little removed from Ludo and her world. I know this book is about Thousand Tales, but still, a wider world perspective would have been great. Also, when it came to the game itself, things did seem more skewed towards the darker side of humanity. There is one light-hearted tale, but it would have been nice to have seen more *fun*.
All of which sounds kind of negative, which is a shame, because this is a good read. If you like plot driven sci-fi that isn’t afraid to pose moral questions and play with philosophy, then you should definitely try this. It’s intelligent and cleverly weaves together the various plot strands to form one main idea. If, however, you enjoy well drawn and developed characters, you might find this a little lacking. There are quite a few characters, some we saw more than others, some who vanish for no particular reason (Brass Lamp, Tess and Zephyr), and all of them could have done with more depth. So it all depends on you and what you want your sci-fi to do for you. Regardless, Thousand Tales is a game that plenty of people would definitely enjoy playing.
Thousand Tales: How We Won the Game is Out Now!
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