Narrator: Erin Spencer
Series: Arena #1
Published by Penguin Audio on 05 April 2016
Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins
Genres: LitRPG, Science Fiction
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A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming….
Every week Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She's died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier....
The RAGE tournaments - the Virtual Gaming League's elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator - leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.
And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.
Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world - until one of her teammates overdoses. Now she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game - and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.
The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside....
©2016 Holly Jennings (P)2016 Penguin Audio
Arena by Holly Jennings is the first book in a series called Arena. Kali Ling is a professional gamer in the Virtual Gaming League in 2054, akin to a professional sports league in 2017. As a part of an elite team fighting in the famous RAGE tournaments with realistic fighting that ends in real pain perception in the virtual world, the pressure is high. Not only do the gamers need to remain in top physical shape as their own physique is translated to their game personas, their fame requires them to constantly be on view for the paparazzi, including photo shoots and constant appearance at clubs. Kali is the first female captain of a team and she must manage her team, traumatic changes in the team’s lineup, difficult team members, and also learn to manage the rising tensions in her life before she completely breaks down.
What an unexpectedly amazing story. I am not a gamer or a sports-lover, but the Jennings has really combined the two and the pressure of fame into a really unique world that may not be too far in the future. This is a novel that is filled with real-life problems of varying degree: loss, drug addiction, pressures of fame, lack of diversity, and more. While all of the characters are not fleshed out to a degree that I would prefer, it can be forgiven in this first novel because of the sharpness of the world that Jennings has created. There is the gaming league that manages the tournaments and they are focused on ratings and money coming in. Similarly, the team owners are also focused on the money that the team can make through sponsorships, leaving the players on their own. At its core, this is a story about fighting against the status quo when it’s clear that the status quo is not good for people, in this case, the gamers, and this plays out in some really powerful moments. I also loved the diversity of the characters. Kali Ling is half Chinese and is the first female captain of a team. Hopefully, in the next novels, the other characters get their backstories fleshed out a bit more. The gaming aspect was more limited than what I was expecting, but it doesn’t feel forced, which is good.
The narration was Erin Spencer was really well done. She really captured the characters, especially Kali. Unfortunately, the production quality was not ideal. There are a few skips and really fast speed through for less than a second. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes a story about fighting against the power and trying to change the world. Also, if you like games or sports, this should be a comfortable territory.