My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Every year, I look forward to the New Bizarro Authors Series, when I get to read new and untested voices in fiction. This series is all new authors, who have not previously had a published book, to test the waters for one year and see how well they are accepted by a wider audience.
I began this year by reading The Cheat Code for God Mode by Andy de Fonseca, which proved to be troubling. Not bad, just troubling, primarily because this book’s greatest strength is also its biggest weakness which is what makes writing and scoring this review so difficult.
Margy Plum and Victor Vance live in an odd world, where portals and wormholes are everyday modes of transportation and 8-bit pets are programmed to their owners’ needs. But something is amiss. First, Margy is having what she can only describe as psychotic episodes where she thinks she’s someone else. Then the two of them discover a game that, after entering a special code, allows them to change and control the world around them. This catches the attention of some rather special people who have been trying to track this game down for a long time. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more about the plot without giving away too much. This is part of the mystery of the book which I don’t want to spoil.
The characters are well written and even sympathetic. As far as a bizarro book goes, it’s also relatively tame, with any sexual references toned down or only implied. The editing is also very good, with few or no errors to pull the reader off the page. Which is good, because the plot is so involving.
Okay, those are the basics. To get more complicated, the book is just the right length. I know that sounds weird to say, but this is one of those instances where it fits. Sometimes I complain that these bizarro books are too short, and they feel like there is a lot more story left to tell. With The Cheat Code for God Mode, this is not the case. The author crams a lot of story into a fairly short space, and makes it work. What’s even more interesting is that it’s a complete story that doesn’t feel rushed. You get a full, satisfying tale that doesn’t leave many loose ends in a short space.
So, what’s the problem? That takes some explaining. This book is a nerd’s dream. It has tons of references to pop culture, science, and everything in nerdom. This made it a lot of fun as I read through it and could pick apart all the little things I recognized. Even a large chunk of the book is based on an actual scientific hypothesis of parallel universes.
This is where the problem comes in. When I review a book, I try to see it from more than one perspective when it comes to recommending it. I can tell if I enjoy a book, but I also try to imagine if it will be enjoyed by, well, not-me. And there’s the rub. It ‘s actually very hard to tell if this would be enjoyed by not-me. While it calls out lots of things that will make a nerd giggle with glee, I can see not only the jokes going over the heads of those who aren’t familiar with the subject, but possibly missing the point altogether. The book easily feels like it could have been a heavily hyperlinked ebook, or a heavily footnoted book like David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, just so that people who aren’t familiar with the little nuances or the main subject could understand what they are and why they’re there, although the humor might still be lost on them.
It makes a great start to this year’s New Bizarro Authors Series. While this book has compelling and sympathetic characters, a great and full story, and lots of little references and jokes that fit well in the context and aren’t simply shoe-horned in, The Cheat God for God Mode gets a high recommendation but with grave reservations. If you’re a nerd who’s familiar with science and pop culture, you’ll get a lot out of this. But if you don’t, then you may end up feeling very lost in this strange universe.
The Cheat Code for God Mode by Andy de Fonseca earns 4 8-bit chickens out of 5.