Monday's Muse, 58th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): New Life by O+S.

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:
Video Games.

Epic (see also Saga and Edda) by Connor Kostick.

Where fantasy and video games meet, there is Epic. In a society where violence is banned, people must settle their disputes in Epic, at the same time that they are trying to stay alive in order to accumulate wealth and status in both the game world and in reality. Impulsively, Erik creates his new Epic character to be female, and spends all his allocated start-up funds on beauty and attitude for Cindella rather than weapons, but something tells him that this is the way to go. She and his friends’ characters use a succession of unusual methods to save Erik’s father from exile and to challenge Central Allocations, the representatives who run the game, and thus, the society. Believable and realistic characters take readers through a thought-provoking story that juxtaposes a simple life working the land with the technology of a society simultaneously operating in a virtual world. Frequent turns of events that teens will know are coming, but not exactly when and how they will play out, keep the story moving along at a steady pace. There is intrigue and mystery throughout this captivating page-turner. Veins of moral and ethical social situations and decisions provide some great opportunities for discussion. Well written and engaging, Epic will easily draw in avid readers and video-game players. Appealing to fans of both fantasy and science fiction, it is destined to see limited shelf time.–Dylan Thomarie, Johnstown High School, School Library Journal (May 1, 2007, vol 53, issue 5, p136).

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline's first novel is old wine in new bottles. The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it's free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival's great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday's obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS.--Kirkus (May 1, 2011

For the Win by Cory Doctorow.

Doctorow is indispensable. It’s hard to imagine any other author taking on youth and technology with such passion, intelligence, and understanding. Although perhaps less urgent than Little Brother (2008), this effort is superior in every other aspect: scope, plot, character, and style. Set in the near future and in locations across the globe (though primarily China and India), the story involves a sweeping cast of characters making a living—if you want to call brutal conditions and pitiful wages a “living”—in such virtual-game worlds as Svartalfheim Warriors and Zombie Mecha. Many of them, like 15-year-old Mala (known by her troops as “General Robotwalla”), endure physical threats from their bosses to farm virtual gold, which is then sold to rich First World gamers. Then these brilliant teens are brought together by the mysterious Big Sister Nor, who has a plan to unionize and bring these virtual worlds—and real-world sweatshops, too—to a screeching halt. Once again Doctorow has taken denigrated youth behavior (this time, gaming) and recast it into something heroic. He can’t resist the occasional lecture—sometimes breaking away from the plot to do so—but thankfully his lessons are riveting. With it’s eye-opening humanity and revolutionary zeal, this ambitious epic is well worth the considerable challenge. -- Kraus, Daniel, Booklist ( vol 106, number 17, p84).

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde.

A near-future teenager trapped in a full-immersion virtual reality game finds herself racing the clock to beat non-virtual death in this plausible, suspenseful outing. Safety precautions come to naught when a group of anti-fantasy do-gooders breaks into a games arcade and damages the equipment. Stranded in "Heir Apparent," a game in which she, as the illegitimate but designated successor to a medieval throne, has to claim and keep her position, Giannine discovers that she can only escape real brain damage, or worse, by finishing the game within three "days." Vande Velde (Being Dead, 2001, etc.) keeps readers in touch with the outside world with substantial but not distracting subplots, surrounds her bright but amateur gamer with magic implements, allies or rivals with unknown allegiances, and other standard game devices, and creates a believable plot line for the game to follow. Though Giannine is repeatedly (to her vast annoyance) forced to start over after being "killed," she learns from her mistakes, survives increasingly tricky, sometimes hilarious, challenges, and wins both crown and life at the last possible moment by not only overcoming opponents, but by using newly developed diplomatic skills to win allies. It's riveting reading for experienced gamers and tyros alike.--Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2002).

Erebos by Ursuala Poznanski.

When 16-year-old Nick gets a package, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. The package contains the mysterious computer game Erebos. Players must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.

Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.

Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur.
This utterly convincing and suspenseful thriller originated in Germany where it has become a runaway bestseller.

Z by Michael Thomas Ford.

The First Rule of Torching: Cleanse with fire. Josh is by far the best zombie Torcher around—at least, he is in his virtual-reality zombie-hunting game. Josh has quickly risen through the player ranks, relying on the skill, cunning, and agility of a real Torcher.

The Second Rule of Torching: Save all humans. But luckily for Josh, zombies exist only in the virtual world. The real zombie war is now more than fifteen years in the past, and the battle to defeat the deadly epidemic that devastated his family—and millions of others—is the stuff of history lessons.

The Third Rule of Torching: You can't bring them back. Charlie is the top-ranked player in the game. Since all the players are shrouded in anonymity, Josh never expects Charlie to be a girl—and he never expects the offer she makes him: to join the underground gaming league that takes the virtual-reality game off the screen and into the streets. Josh is thrilled. But the more involved he gets, the more he realizes that not everything is what it seems. Real blood is spilling, members of the team are disappearing, and the zombies in the game are acting strange. And then there's the matter of a mysterious drug called Z. . . .