Virtual Sabotage is a standalone blend of mystery and science fiction, set in a world not all that different from the one you and I currently inhabit. I was fascinated by its premise, since virtual reality has been an interest of mine for the past few years, but the story itself failed to meet my expectations.
Kenna Ward works as an envoy for one of the largest virtual realities companies in the world. VR makes it possible for individuals to live out daring scenarios in a stable and safe environment, and although things rarely go wrong, if and when they do, Kenna and other appropriately trained colleagues are able to slip into the scene and extricate the participants before their brains react negatively to whatever is happening. Kenna is thought to be one of the best envoys in the business, so it comes as no surprise when she’s called into work on what is supposed to be her night off to rescue a participant who has gotten himself into a bit of trouble.
Once Kenna is on the scene, she soon realizes that this is no run-of-the-mill rescue mission. The participant in trouble is none other than Charlie, Kenna’s fiancé and a fellow envoy who entered a virtual scenario without taking the proper precautions. Kenna can’t understand what could have made him act so rashly, but she puts her questions aside for the moment, planning to discuss the matter with Charlie once he has been safely extricated from the scenario gone wrong. Unfortunately, Kenna is unable to bring Charlie out alive, since his brain was overloaded by unknown stimuli from the scene he created. Kenna barely escapes with her life, and she is desperate to get to the bottom of this strange and deadly mishap.
It soon becomes clear to Kenna and a couple of her co-workers that Charlie’s death is part of a sinister plot set in motion by the founders of the company they work for. It is owned by some extremely power-hungry individuals who have concocted a complex plan to dominate the modern world. Kenna is determined to thwart them, but her attempts to do so bring her to the attention of some very dangerous people. Suddenly, Kenna’s quest for truth and justice seems destined to end with her own death unless she can come up with a foolproof plan to ensure her own survival as well as that of the small group she has enlisted to help her bring the company down.
I was fully prepared to lose myself in this action-packed story, but the execution of the plot really didn’t work for me. Ms. Hyzy introduces a large cast of characters, but most of them aren’t well-developed. They’re all supposed to be integral parts of the novel, but I found myself confused by many of their motivations, and when the author does attempt to explain what makes them tick, I was unable to buy into her explanations.
Kenna is the undisputed heroine of the novel, and she is the only character who is given a compelling backstory. She’s extremely smart, but her intelligence is also her greatest weakness. She is very used to dealing with things in a virtual world, and she finds it understandably difficult to make her skills work for her in the physical one. Her love for Charlie and her desperation to uncover the truth behind his untimely death sometimes cause her to act in less than a rational manner, but I always understood her motivations. Unfortunately, the other characters appear flat and lifeless, making Kenna the standout in an otherwise unremarkable group of people.
The story is far too complicated for its length. There are so many different factions of people who are working against one another, that it was very difficult for me to keep everyone and their affiliations straight in my mind. Ms. Hyzy wasn’t able to explain the politics of her world in a way I could understand, and I was often frustrated by my inability to recall who was loyal to which faction.
The ending felt rushed, almost as if the author ran out of ideas before she was able to bring the story to a satisfactory conclusion. Some things are wrapped up in a way that felt entirely too neat and tidy for my liking, while other plot elements are left hanging. This might have been forgivable if Virtual Sabotage had been the first book in a series, but I am unable to overlook it in a novel that is supposed to stand on its own.