Maze: The Waking of Grey Grimm – Tony Bertauski

*I received a free ARC of this book via the Six Queens ARC Library.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

35661111Blurb: Grey isn’t sleeping.

Sunny Grimm finds a strap around her son’s head with an embossed symbol between his eyes. This is the mark of awareness leaping, where players launch into alternate realities and anything goes. Investors make millions. Critics, however, refuse to call it a game. They argue that reality confusion will end humanity. Labels aside, there are many who play.

And many who lose.

Sunny Grimm goes on a mad search for her son and the people responsible for allowing him to play. The only way she will find him is to not lose herself in the search.

The Maze is more than a game.

 

Tony Bertauski’s Maze is a total mindfuck, in a good way.

It is terrifying, confusing, thought-provoking, entertaining and unfathomable.

The story follows a small cast of characters as they navigate a world in which virtual reality is indistinguishable from physical reality, and everything you know (or think you do) can be a creation of another’s mind.  The question isn’t what is real, or how to get out, but who am I, where am I, and why am I here?

There are some deep moral questions here for the reader to ponder too.  What is choice?  Do we really have any, or if every decision we make is a product of the opportunities and experiences we have had, then are we set on our paths at an early age and simply tricking ourselves into believing there are other options?

Bertauski’s writing and plot construction has a dreamlike quality:  disturbing and irrational, that perfectly complements the dystopian world he has created and the reader can become as lost as the characters at times.  He has perfectly captured that nightmarish feeling of desperately searching for something, someone, that you can’t quite remember in a world that doesn’t make sense or follow the rules.

Fans who have already read the Maze novella and the Foreverland trilogy will be smugly pleased by the references to those earlier works, and how the themes and settings weave in and out of each other.  However, The Waking of Grey Grimm does stand alone and reading the other works is not necessary to follow what is happening here.  Personally I would recommend it, as not only are they (also) very good reads, but the interconnectivity adds richness, depth and history to the fictional world.

Part of the pleasure in this read comes from putting together the clues, like an old-fashioned puzzle game:  Myst, Starship Titanic, the Discworld games (“Did anyone get the number of that donkey cart?!”).  The majority comes from the impact during and after, where you find yourself questioning your senses and memories, and wondering how you can be sure that this, right now, is not a dream.

Grey Grimm is not an easy read, but it is a riveting one.  Fans of surrealistic sci-fi, puzzle games, and films like Inception and Total Recall will enjoy taking this punch.

   “Players,” he said slowly, “means the game.”
He touched his forehead again.  Even in conversation, he didn’t want to say it out loud, as if someone could be listening to them in her shitbox apartment.
“You don’t sign up to play the game, Ms. Grimm.  You don’t log on or make an account.  You have to be invited.  You have to know people to invite you.  And then you need lots of money to accept the invitation.  You see a pattern?”
“You think…”  She swallowed.  “He’s in the game?”

– Tony Bertauski, Maze: The Waking of Grey Grimm

You can find out more about Tony Bertauski and get his 4-book starter library free on his website here, and you can contact the author via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can read my review of the Maze prequel short story by Tony Bertauski here, and my review of the Foreverland box set here.

Maze:  The Waking of Grey Grimm is available on Amazon now.

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