The British Fantasy Society.

5 out of 5 stars. A gripping, genre-smashing read.

Matthew Johns

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 6 February 2021.

The Tetris Effect is documented as a syndrome occurring when people spend so much time playing video games such as Tetris, that their thoughts, mental images and dreams start to be filled with patterns from the games. While this book takes its name from that, it uses a different definition, stating that playing games like Tetris can improve mental agility and capacity.

This book combines thrilling urban fantasy with video games and Japanese mythology in a cunning way that works well. It begins in Las Vegas in 1983, where what is pitched as a Spiritual Science Conference results in the temporary disappearance of the audience and panic strikes at the hearts of the Las Vegas Police Department. Fearing the worst, they arrest and investigate the organiser of the conference, Malcolm Van Peterson. When the audience mysteriously return, he’s let go as they think it was a PR stunt. However, it turns out he’s opened a portal to another dimension where his assistant, Tadashi Finjoto makes a deal with a disruptive demon called Tengu.

Meanwhile, an office worker named Lars is obsessed with playing an online game called Atari Shock, ignoring his wife and not really focusing on his job until his online character gets wiped out when other players gang up on him. A sugar-addicted software developer named Berry Butler who is also a keen Atari Shock player finds herself hired for a contract in Japan. Soon, all their paths begin to converge as the fates and Tadashi Finjoto bring them all together to further his plans.

This is a really interesting and gripping read, very effectively combining the genres into a compulsive read. It all gets a little trippy as the borders between our dimension and the other are blurred, and as gamers move into the other dimension and find that the normal rules of physics and life don’t always apply. The author manages to incorporate the language and feel of videogames into Japanese mythology, bringing the two together into an almighty amalgam! This is only book one of a trilogy, so I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment to see what happens to the characters, and where the author takes them! – Matthew Johns.

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