Jason Lind is a well-known, well sought out, and very successful computer science major. Unfortunately, his brilliant mind is bored. He decides to seek refuge in an online role-playing game which sucks him into becoming a compulsive player. Soon, Jason becomes trapped in the world of Fortuna, as it starts taking over his reality.
Such online games are an economy in themselves, as author Michael Stevens explained in a recent interview with Oceanview publishing. The anonymity of these games allows for different sorts of friendships to develop, which are not restricted by the same social conventions as in real life friendships. This causes gamers to take risks and behave in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.
Michael Stevens’s opinion of the gaming world is not only interesting, but gives the entire book a whole new perspective. He believes that we live in a lonely, angry society, and that people play these games to give them a chance to get what they feel they’re missing out on in their lives – anonymously.
Online anonymity makes these games all the more potent and addictive and puts gamers in situations they otherwise would never have gotten themselves into, and, consequently, in situations they don’t always know how to handle. Michael Stevens’s character is put in such a situation, as the line between his fiction and reality become blurred when a debt Jason’s character incurred in the game is being collected in real life. And of course, this debt is not your grandmother’s debt; it’s the kind only a compulsive player like Jason has become can get into.
One of the most intriguing things about this book, something that is at the same time incredibly interesting and yet weirdly awkward, is the fact that Jason is using high-tech twenty-first century technology to play a game set in Renaissance Florence. The differences between these sometimes very intimately related worlds clash wildly with one another. Kudos must be given to the author for making the clash blend in extremely well with the story, and for making it work. It could have easily become a set of cliché contrasting comments, moments and situations, but Michael Stevens makes it an experience of clashing emotions, feelings, and sensations – not an easy feat.
Being an avid X-Files fan, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the season 7 episode “First Person Shooter”; and so the mental images that accompanied me throughout the books were quite vivid, and interestingly enough, a few bars of the theme to The X-Files would resound every now and then. This is not only an amusing anecdote (or disturbing look into my addled mind for some), but also a reflection of the ability of the author to create a vivid world, one that easily took a life of its own while I was working my way through Fortuna’s over 300 pages).
A little wild and totally unbelievable at times, Fortuna remains a highly pleasurable read from beginning to end. I’m no computer expert, but the reality created by Michael Stevens in this book makes sometimes frightening sense, causing me wonder at times if, perhaps, technology could advance to make this work of fiction a reality.