Pandora (Welcome to the Apocalypse Book 1) Review

Title: Pandora

Series: Welcome to the Apocalypse

Author: D. L. Richardson

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Publication Date: November 8, 2016

Pages: 334

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The Apocalypse Games were designed to create a realistic apocalypse scenario for anyone who can pay the hefty $5,000 entry fee. These games allow a player to be plugged into a cyber mainframe and escape reality for 24 hours of the pure Apocalypse mayhem of their choosing. The options range by difficulty level and experience. You can opt for a zombie end or vampire, disease, alien, supply shortage Apocalypse, anything your heart desires. That is if the computer runs smoothly.

Kelly Lawrence is a grieving widow whose husband helped create this online mayhem. Kelly has decided to enter the launch of the game for one reason: to see her husband, who she believes is hidden somewhere in the game, she just has to virtually die to see him.

Jack Minnow, Kelly’s brother, entered the game to look out for Kelly and to be his superhero self in sticky situations. Little does he know the game will test him more ways than his ability to save his loved ones.

Reis Anderson is the son of a senator and the best friend to Jack. He also came along to look after Kelly, who he believes doesn’t belong here. He also wants to test out the lengths this game will go to challenge its players. He will soon find out.

These three entered as a team, expecting 24 hours of vampire fueled madness, instead. The game malfunctions and keeps its new players trapped inside scenario after scenario. Locked inside a hell no one thought imaginable. It’s now their mission to get out, because while you can’t die in the game, you certainly can suffer and real, physical death can come if the pod that is sustaining you breaks down. They become desperate to stay alive until they are rescued from their CGI prison.

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This book starts out slow and was difficult to get into at first. This book is lush with the opportunity to build a world and to see the world truly from the eyes of the players. There was an attempt to build that world but ultimately it felt lackluster. I understand that there wasn’t much time to build a world, characters, and move a story along, but the beginning of this book felt like no attempt was made to bring me into this vampire infested world, a world I imagine a lot of us would love to visualize in our heads.

Another issue that prevented me from getting into this book, in the beginning, was the characters themselves. Kelly’s obsession with her husband was heartbreaking and the author did a fantastic job at portraying true grief. However, after about 1/3 of the way through the book, it’s hard not to become frustrated by her and her feeble attempts to die without success. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like it accurately portrayed a grieving widow’s response to life without her love, but it did nothing to move the plot along and hindered the ability to see Kelly as her own character. Reis was also a problematic character for me, but only in the beginning. He was obsessed with Kelly’s lack of experience and kept repeating the fact that she didn’t belong in the game and that he would have to protect her every second of every day. He didn’t at all. And then there is Jack, Kelly’s older brother. He has a superhero complex the entire time throughout the book, however, he was a genuinely good character. I don’t have much to say about him other than I actually liked his character and he did help move the story plot along.

Because of the reasons listed above, I actually almost didn’t finish this book, but on a whim, I decided to try again and was so glad I did. The second half of this book really starts to draw all the little pieces together and form a much more cohesive story. It almost felt like the author got into a groove and found the niche that I was waiting for. The storyline started to feel like it had a purpose and plot was beginning more and more evident. The challenges the characters faced in the beginning were still there: how far is too far and at what point do you say you won’t do something to survive? But the characters seemed to be able to navigate them a little bit better than in the beginning.

The computer itself, who the characters name Pandora, malfunctioning leads to a lot of twists and turns and a lot of evolving of non-player characters and scenarios. It was almost Westworld in nature with how the system started to evolve and learn and make things nearly impossible to get through without “dying” and going to a death dream. Having the author lay out those scenarios to give the reader a look into what could happen and those small reminders that they were in fact trapped inside their “pods”, the area where they were kept alive for the duration of the game, meant I was sucked in and sold completely on this new world that has a possibility of existing in the near future. The cautionary tale aspect of this book makes it feel very much like Jurassic Park or Westworld in the fact that it shows what could and, possibly would, go wrong with an invention like this. It, also, makes me very curious as to how the author will continue this adventure in the upcoming books.

While this book is by no means a favorite of mine, I actually enjoyed the second half of the book and I look forward to reading the other two books in this riveting series. So while the beginning wasn’t great at all, I thoroughly enjoyed the second half, which leaves me with a dilemma on how to rate this book. Overall, I think I’ll give it a 3.5/5 the second half of the story and how the story made me feel earns it a higher rating than the first half of the book deserves but I can’t help but have a soft spot for this book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are solely mine.

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