Review: Doomed by Tracy Deebs

Author:Tracy Deebs
Release Date: January 2013
Publisher: Walker & Company
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Rating: 4.5 Hoots
Reviewer: Lydia
Buy From: Amazon/ B&N

Sum It Up!Readers will enjoy the ride.

When seventeen-year-old Pandora Walker opens an email attachment, she uploads the most frightening worm ever invented—and in doing so, brings about total technological Armageddon. Everything from the internet to communications to utilities collapses and suddenly Pandora finds herself on the run from Homeland Security, the FBI and every police department in the country, all of whom blame her for the technological wasteland sweeping across the U.S.. With the help of stepbrothers Eli and Theo, her neighbors and the two hottest guys in school—plus codes encrypted in a world famous MMO—she sets out on a real life scavenger hunt that only she can solve. A scavenger hunt that pits her against one of the most brilliant men in the world—the maker of the Pandora worm. Her father. Only by unraveling the clues left by him in the MMO, and in real-world places around the U.S., can she hope to beat the clock ticking the days off until the entire planet is Doomed. (Author’s Web site)
From the first words, the race is on. Deebs’ opening is masterfully written. By firmly establishing Pandora’s conflicting emotions about her estranged father and strangely removed mother, what could have been camp becomes suspense and tension.
Within a few chapters, however, the plot and story are blatantly reminiscent of War Games, a movie starring Matthew Broderick. The 1983 science fiction movie involves a teenager who finds a backdoor into a military computer where a game scenario becomes confused with reality for the start of World War III. Unlike the movie, the stakes set in Pandora’s game are set at the ultimate high (you can only die once) and there are no fail safes. With the introduction of Theo and Eli, neighboring step-brothers who also provide a romantic interest, the relationship dynamics become more complex. In line with the Tron-like graphics, Deebs switches the entire setting of the novel from reality-based to science fiction, further mimicking the 1982 movie in which a hacker is brought into a computer game.
All three of the protagonists are believable, despite some inconsistencies and contradictions in behavior. The fact that each is more than six feet tall is continually repeated throughout the novel, yet other time factors are ignored, e.g., are the boys growing whiskers? Other times, Eli and Theo are nearly indistinguishable from each other, particularly when both are expressing romantic interest in Pandora.
Pandora is herself a work of contradictory behaviors governed by one overriding quality – she’s always curious. Of course, the name seems to require this particular characteristic and Deebs work to not turn her into a caricature or cartoon. Naturally, there are times readers will wish Pandora could show a bit more sense.
An inherent problem with any quest novel is keeping the middle from lagging as a result of the repetitiveness of the format. Deebs relieves this problem by changing the characters’ personal perspectives and perceptions of each other, as well as of the antagonist. The photographs are expertly used to instill interest in the geographic wanderings of the group and provide a chance to take a breath before the next sprint.
Jules, a name mentioned once, and Emily appear to be throwaway characters, used only to complete certain actions. The disappearance of Pandora’s mother beyond the opening of the novel, however, is extremely disturbing. There are also other revision and editing occurrences that disrupt the flow and are noticeable in a novel with such a powerful pacing.
Overall, Doomed is a science fiction action novel and fulfills its requirements well. Within the computer game, mythology is used to form the underlying apocryphal structure. As the world nears destruction, descriptions of the devastation are doled out to maximize the impact. The unseen antagonist is revealed in bits and pieces, encouraging the reader to question what type of person could have planned such a complex scenario. The heroes are continually challenged to the very end. Readers will enjoy the ride.

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