In a dystopic yet uncomfortably familiar near-future, Lionel spends his days working in a government office and his nights as fantasy avatar Ludi in the online game world of CoreQuest. Ludi is blonde, muscular and intensely sexual; Lionel is mixed-race, awkward and introverted.
Kirsty Logan 1 February 2012 - 2:24pm
Lionel was raised by an adoptive white family who never treated him as an equal – except for his adopted sister Lilith, his only friend, who keeps disappearing as soon as Lionel needs her. Lionel falls for the seductive Eve, but soon becomes obsessed with a young girl working as a trafficked prostitute in the ‘health centre’ near his flat. But none of these women are truly as they appear, and Lionel begins to wonder which is more real: his own life, or Ludi’s.
Themes of virtual existence, family tensions and memory overlap to create a rich, compelling novel. Although there are multiple plot-threads concerning technological and political issues, the emotional core is Lionel’s search for the truth of his birth and parentage. Occasionally the twin narratives of Lionel and Ludi don’t seem to fit together, but when they do align it’s wonderfully clever.
The Game is Altered is a slick and emotionally affecting novel – proof that Britain’s independent publishers are putting out some of the most exciting fiction around. Author Mez Packer and publisher Tindal Street are both ones to watch.