Author: Chris Kluwe
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: March 3rd, 2020
Warnings: Racism, sexism, assault, classism
I received a copy of Otaku through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Chris Kluwe’s debut novel is an impressive feat, made all the more shocking and impressive given his previous career. Otaku is a science fiction novel, one that dives headfirst into the realm of virtual realities, and a fight against corruption.
Ashley Akachi, aka Ash, is famous for her gameplay within the Infinite Game. You’d think that’d earn her more slack, but really all it’s done is make her a target. A target for those that hate women succeeding. A target for those that want to use her.
One thing is certain, in this complex world full of politics, schemes, corruption, and more, Ash is about to find herself in the middle of it all. And it will be her actions that decide the fate for not just herself, but everyone she has ever known or cared about.
“It takes a special type of mindset to run endgame encounters, the toughest challenges Infinite Game’s developers can nightmare up. No one knows if they have that mindset or not until they do their first run. Most of them head back to Candyland, home of the omnipresent computer assist. I decided to stay, the darkness calling to something inside me, a thrill I can’t find anywhere else.”
Warnings: Otaku covers a lot of intense and heavy subjects. You’ll find everything from racism, sexism, assault, classism, and so (SO) much more covered within the pages. It’s all clearly designed to make a point, but it’s still very much present.
Otaku was a shocking and breathtaking read. I knew that it was being compared to a blend of Ready Player One and Ender’s Game, but honestly? That description does not do it justice. This is a novel of social justice, a fight against corruption, and so much more, all wrapped into one. It’s all set within a brilliant world full of virtual realities, but that just makes the darker points all the more stark.
Where to start with this review? Let’s talk about the setting first. The virtual reality of this world, the Infinite Game, is not as big of an element as I expected. It is important to the plot? Absolutely. But it isn’t the main setting for a good chunk of the story. But it does set the scene.
I actually kind of love that it set the scene, but then allowed the characters to move on from that world. I didn’t expect that at all, and I’ll admit that at first I was even disappointed. But once I saw where it was going, I got over that disappointment quickly.
Ash’s character was a delight. She was crass, strong, independent, yet unafraid to love. She was intentionally off-putting, and very much a fighter. But all of that just made me like her all the more. After all, she’s been put into a world that is alarmingly dark.
On that note, I absolutely adore that Kluwe didn’t shy away from the darker elements in this novel. Humans were true and proper villains here, showing off the worst that people have to offer. His inclusion of this behavior was very much intentional, and I believe it was done to make a point. That the plot involved a good chunk of this was appreciated. It made the fight feel so much more real (sometimes too real). It was a nice touch, all things considered.
I am honestly quite blown away by what I found in Otaku. I’ll be frank here: I don’t follow sports. So I had no idea who Chris Kluwe was before this. But now? Now they’re on my radar, and I’m so adding them to my watch list, because I want to read any sequel or future novel they come up with.