‘The Moon Maze Game’ is the fourth novel in the ‘Dream Park’ series by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. The story takes place nearly seventy years from now, 2085 to be exact. Humanity has spread throughout the solar system, a stable lunar colony is negotiating for independence, while lunar tourism is on the rise.
The corporation funding Dream Parks around the world just puts the finishing touches to the Dream Park at Heinlein Base and the first live action role-playing game ever on the Moon will be the most prestigious and anticipated Dream Park game of all times. An opportunity none of the elite LARPers from all over the world can pass. One of them is Ali Kikaya, son of the leader of a small despotic African nation, the Republic of Kikaya. He is accompanied on this occasion by the bodyguard Scott Griffin, son of Alex Griffin (a character in the first novel ‘Dream Park’).
The plot thickens when we learn about two Kikayan nationals working at Heinlein Base who intend to use the game to support the rebellion in their home country. They hire some professional helpers and set their plan in motion. The game is invaded by these terrorists and all the gamers are kidnapped. What the terrorists could not prepare for are the gamers themselves. The terrorists have unwittingly challenged them to ‘win’ the first game that ever became ‘real’. These gamers are a special sort of people: brilliant, unpredictable, resourceful and addicted to problem solving. Pursued by the armed terrorists, the gamers have to remain one step ahead of the game just to stay alive long enough to be rescued but this is a game they have prepared for all their lives…
The first book ‘Dream Park’ was published just seven years after the publication of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’, the game that started the whole role-playing hype. The ideas in the book were really new and exciting then, painting a picture of a future where technology would allow the gamers to take part in this new kind of entertainment. More than thirty years later, after live action role-playing becoming a widespread reality, albeit not as assisted by technology as in the novels, millions of people all over the world playing multi-player on-line role-playing games or computer role-playing games the question may be allowed: Does ‘The Moon Maze Game’ bring something really new to the table? The answer has to be ‘no’. The technology seems not that far away anymore and the basic formula of the ‘Dream Park’ novels has not changed.
Despite all that, it is a well-written page turner, tightly plotted and the main protagonists are more than mere sketches. You should expect nothing more than a fast-paced action adventure novel and it delivers very well on that part. I recommend it for every fan of near-future thrillers and role-playing games. Fans of the series surely will be delighted.
(pub: TOR/Forge, 2011. 364 page hardback. Price: $25.99 (US). $29.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-2666-9)
check out website: www.tor-forge.com