Car Racing, gaming, and espionage do not seem to go together and yet they make a great combination. There is action, adventure and excitement, all of which create an adrenalin rush which hold the fans of each at it long into the after-hours.
In The Scarab by Scott Rhine, we enter into a virtual reality form of racing and espionage, full of excitement and danger. The action is fast and the vehicles are faster, built by the gamers themselves, to win by whatever method works. Ethan Hayes is a young man down on his luck. He is still paying off the medical bills from his mother’s treatment and does not expect to ever get anywhere in life due the amounts due, in an effort to stave off the disease that was killing her. Ethan himself is a hemophiliac and it colors everything he does in life. He is a good mechanic and during the day, he takes care of the business, but at night, he puts on his other hat. He is a gamer and his second life revolves around GEVSIM. In this life, his alter ego is known as the Scarab.
This game with Ground Effect Vehicles is first made popular though colleges, but now accepted and played worldwide. He uses the shops’ computers after hours and no one is the wiser. It is during his play that he first begins to notice the anomalies. Something illegal is going on and since the satellite guidance systems are all under Federal jurisdiction, they require a special type of Marshal to patrol them. The local police vehicles could not accelerate fact enough to catch the perpetrators before they could get out of city limits. The only person he knows that is a member of the patrol is his friend Mary Anne Anselm.
They met just after high school and dated for some time, but when she began to get serious and wanted marriage he decided he could not put her in that situation. First, his blood-clotting problem was genetic, and there was the issue with his debt. Marriage would make her legally responsible for the money as well. Deciding to report his findings to her, she agrees to follow up on the information. When he is called into the station for more questions, he finds that his discovery has now put him in a delicate situation. The police want his program that shows how he found the speeders, and they want it with no strings attached. When an attorney shows up, hired by his friend Mary Anne, he is able to get out of the jam with his program still his own and intact.
Suddenly Ethan finds that he may not be in the crisis that he had assumed. Nigel, his attorney is not only able to get him money for his project but also able to get his mother’s medical bills expunged. The money he made on his discovery plus some his father’s life insurance would have to be spent post haste, and when he finds he has just over $100,000 left he decides to enter his latest design in the SimCon Gev. He would be racing side by side with some of the best in the world, the game being international and there is a great deal of money at stake. With both Mary Anne and Nigel at his side, he is ready to take on the world and prove his capabilities. When things begin to go wrong, with vehicles tampered with and people murdered, Ethan, now known again as the Scarab in racing circles, seems to be in the middle. When Mary Anne is kidnapped and an Undercover FBI operative is murdered, the Scarab must dig deep to find the clues to save his friends. Can he figure out who is behind the espionage before it is too late?
Rhine has written a fast-paced novel full of suspense and danger. While I do not understand the gaming world, he made it seem quite fascinating. Racing has always been a popular form of recreation, and doing it with these GEV’s in a virtual reality situation just seemed quite extraordinary. As I was explaining the book to one of my friends who is a gamer, he was quite enthralled with the possibilities. He is not a reader and yet assured me that a book like this would be something that would get him off the computer and into reading.