Brain Jack by Brian Falkner (2009)
This book was shortlisted for the 2010 Cybils which is why (as a round 2 judge) I read it.
I can see how Brain Jack would have some appeal and could be great for teens who are into computers or are reluctant readers. That said, I personally wasn’t very impressed with the book.
I thought it was too technical. I know nothing about computers but a lot of the stuff sounded downright made up in places and in other places sounded like gibberish. It felt strange having people typing on a computer be high action and also Falkner at times made it seem like the characters were inside the computer which is jarring.
I personally was irritated when New York’s Avenue of the Americas was mentioned in the story, by a native New Yorker, when everyone who has been living here would only call it Sixth Avenue. Other elements also just felt out of place to me, like story threads that didn’t feel vital to the plot. (Examples: Vegas, Fargas, Vienna, Dodge’s dodgy tattoo ON HIS FOREHEAD.) Many of the characters also fell flat.
The prologue was poorly done and off putting. I got my copy from a friend who I’m sure also didn’t buy it. It was so strange having the prologue talk in depth about getting information from people who bought the book when I didn’t (and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t). Aside from completely disregarding libraries and borrowing books it brought me right out of the narrative since it was so not true for my experience. In tandem with the prologue I felt like the epilogue was too preachy and weirdly so. Neuro headsets don’t actually exist and the book is fiction, but then he is telling us he’ll be watching (much like Santa Claus)?
It just didn’t work for me.