Having the metaverse being a vision of Hell is somewhat comical to me. I think it is very fitting that this version of something so unnecessary would only be useful as a place to psychologically torture people who hurt someone’s feelings.
I hadn’t heard of this game before reading the book, and now I kind of want to play it. I looked up some information to see how different the stories were, and I think the author was very close to it. The things that were changed made sense for the story.
After reading the book and looking at the game, I can see why this version of the metaverse isn’t brought up as an example of what it could be. They stick with the other ideas in Snow Crash and Ready Player One. Let’s get into the story.
The book starts with our heroes getting attacked by government assassins. They kill the assassins and escape into the city. We don’t find out their names until the second chapter.
Gideon, our narrator, tells us who the two of them are. He was spending the night with Rachel, and the two of them were agents of ARC. This is similar to the FBI.
Gideon tells us about the world in the 2080s and explains that it is a religious dictatorship. This happened when Hell was revealed to be real, and demons started walking the Earth. This made it easier for Solene Solux, the religious dictator, to take over the United States of America. In this world, fun is a crime.
The story then follows Gideon and Rachel as they try to figure out why the government targeted them that they work for. This leads them to former co-workers, demons, and eventually, the resistance against the government.
Along the way, they learn more about who they are and unravel a mystery about the assassination attempt. They find out that their faces were altered at some point and that five other people were killed on the same night. Four of them are said to have been muttering a phrase in Latin, which is something that both Rachel and Gideon would do.
This investigation leads them to Hell. You can go to Hell anywhere in this world if you have the right equipment. After their third trip to hell, our heroes learn that Hell is a virtual reality program. In modern terms, Hell is the Metaverse. It is a place where the government puts prisoners so it can psychologically torture them.
I do need to point out that they learn about the virtual reality program while investigating a demon on human adult film ring. They almost participate in one of the pornos before the program glitches out. This is also where they learn that the demons on Earth are government-controlled androids.
They meet up with a rebel group called The Front. This is made up of former government officials who are trying to overthrow the government. Gideon and Rachel do a few missions for them, eventually discovering who they are and how to take down the dictatorship.
Gideon and Rachel were originally commandos for the Front. They were captured by the government, physically and mentally altered, and then programmed to take out the leaders of the Front. This plan didn’t work, leading to the events at the beginning of the book.
Then Rachel dies while trying to find a way to destroy the Hell program. This also happens in the video game. Gideon then goes on a mission to upload a virus to the Hell servers. The mission is successful, and most people quickly turn on the government!
We get a little epilogue from Gideon. He goes to Rachel’s grave, where he runs into Solux, who had been hiding there for weeks. She tries to kill Gideon but fails and dies while trying to escape. This is a big change from the game, but I think it gives a better conclusion to the story.
The Game vs. The Book
The book’s plot is almost a mirror of the game’s plot. I only noticed some minor changes when I looked at a synopsis of the game. The ending is probably the biggest difference. The book ends with Solux trying to kill Gideon and dying while she is trying to run away.
In the video game, the ending depends on who you use as the main character. The book is told from the perspective of Gideon and follows part of the ending of that part of the video game. However, the book includes more characters and cuts out the part where the main character beats Solux unconscious.
Some minor characters from the book have larger roles in the game, and some are not involved with the end of the game at all. This means the book is a little more realistic or as realistic as it can be when you’re talking about a Hell-themed metaverse.
I prefer how the book ends, even if it is a little stupid. It ties in better with some of the more ludicrous parts of the story.
Gideon having a secret mission in his subconscious has a better payoff in the book. He tries to kill Senator Burr but is able to overcome his programming. This leads to the explanation of what happened to Gideon and Rachel at the beginning of the book.
There are a few more minor differences. These were the few that I noticed and thought were important.
Solene Solux’s Gender
I wasn’t expecting to be talking about this. However, it was one of the more confusing things in this book. The author goes back and forth on calling Solux “he” and “she.” We’re given an explanation for this, but that explanation isn’t all that helpful.
Mr. Beautiful tells the reader about Solux’s past and how she changed genders. Beautiful calls Solux a hermaphrodite. This would suggest that she has both male and female reproductive organs, or he could be using it as a derogatory way to refer to her as transexual. We aren’t given an answer.
Having a demon say this made me think it wasn’t true. He is a bad guy and was also being threatened, so he was probably just saying things to try and talk his way out of being killed. Also, I’m biased against demons because demons are supposed to be evil. Why would I trust what they say?
Either way, having Solux use both pronouns made things a little confusing. It isn’t that big of a deal, but strangely, the author didn’t just pick one and go with that.
Likes and Dislikes
I liked this book. I might have a different opinion if I had played the game before reading it. There were some changes to the game’s story, and more characters were added. The game also gives you the option to play as either Gideon or Rachel, which changes some parts of the game, like which character dies while trying to crash the program.
I liked the changes that the author made to the video game. We get more characters, and the world is explored a bit more. The author did a good job limiting some of the video game moments that would have made less sense in a book.
In the video game, you do everything. Looking at it critically makes you wonder why your character needs the rebels to complete the game’s objectives. Having other characters do some of the work makes sense because it makes the story feel less like a superhero adventure and more like a couple of people working with the rebels.
One thing that I thought was odd but still makes sense is how the government seemingly can’t catch Gideon and Rachel. This is a police state that keeps a close watch on the civilian population. The reader is shown that this government has agents everywhere. However, they can’t find the rebels, and they can’t catch our heroes.
This is explained by having them be deep-cover assassins, but we don’t know that until later. This kind of explains things, but it only seems to matter once, and Gideon easily overcomes his programming. The explanation didn’t do a good job of explaining things.
The author did an excellent job of minimizing most of the video game moments in the book. However, I think more could have been done to explain some of them that created more questions. The story is still great, and I don’t think this will be a big issue for most readers.
Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller is a very good novelization of a video game. It closely follows the game’s plot and makes some necessary deviations to improve the story. The changes help to make this feel less like a video game and more like a book.
Both the game and the book are built on great ideas. It takes the metaverse concept and turns it into something that makes sense. I’m not sure this was the author or developer’s intention, but when I hear someone talking about the metaverse, I feel like I’m in hell.
After reading this, I think I might try to play the game. It seems interesting, and I would like to see if I can spot more changes the book made.