Review of fantasy novel The Nexus Games by Shami Stovall
Special Forces Soldier Alex Kellan has three problems. He’s on forced medical leave, he’s alone on Christmas, and two men are actively stalking his every step.
Things get worse when Kellan wakes up in a twisted world where people have magical abilities and high-tech weaponry. It turns out, Kellan’s stalkers want him to participate in a deadly competition—whether or not Kellan agrees.
Forced to compete in the infamous Nexus Games, Kellan must risk everything to survive the competition and save the other members of his ragtag team. Their new motto quickly becomes: Situation Normal: All Fouled Up.
A litRPG thriller with high-tech magic, set in a game for the ultimate prize.
Excerpt from The Nexus Games
Alex Kellan wasn’t the type of person who stalkers typically targeted. He carried a loaded .45 handgun in his shoulder holster and regularly bench-pressed two hundred pounds. Most thugs could do the math—he wasn’t worth the inevitable hospital bill.
Yet, for some unknown reason, a pair of men had been following Kellan wherever he went. For the last four days, his stalkers had watched his every movement from the safety of distant shadows. But each day they grew a little bolder. Each day they moved a little closer.
Curiosity was getting the better of Kellan. He had called in the suspicious behavior, and his contacts were investigating, but there wasn’t much to go on.
Kellan took a swig of beer, content, for the moment, with the seedy bar atmosphere. Nino’s Place was a rinky-dink location stuck between a Japanese restaurant and a UPS store, both of which had been closed for years.
Despite the grit and grime, there were four others seated around the establishment. One man, heavy set and bearded, sat with a trucker’s posture. Another man, his hair silver and his naked ring finger permanently indented, likely drank to escape the memories that lingered.
Two others sat in the corner booth, hidden by the shadows of a burnt-out light, as silent as the broken jukebox.
There they were. Kellan’s stalkers.
He decided he’d wait them out. Perhaps once he stepped outside, he could get a word with them.
A bartender walked over and offered Kellan a quizzical lift of her eyebrow. All the hair on her head had been dyed dark purple—a flashy statement that didn’t match the woman’s plain black shirt and unassuming jeans.
“It’s Christmas Eve, ya know,” she said.
“Seriously?” Kellan replied. He finished his beer with one last swig. “Huh. That explains the holiday music on the radio.”
Obviously unimpressed by the sarcasm, the bartender frowned. “Don’t get cute. Shouldn’t you be with family? What’s someone like you doing in Nino’s Place?”
“Clearly, I’m here for the company,” Kellan quipped.
The trucker belched.
My Review of The Nexus Games
Given my RPG (role playing game, for anyone who’s unfamiliar) and video game history, I have read surprisingly few game lit books. I suppose I’ve read books that involve games that are also life in a dystopian way (kind of like Ready Player One), but The Nexus Games felt like something slightly different and new to me, which was pretty cool.
I enjoyed the game mechanics a lot, especially the information scrolling. The game text’s humor was subtle but beautiful for anyone familiar with how games deliver this kind of information. I did find it tough to keep up with some of the different abilities and specialties at points, and only my knowledge of how games categorize abilities kept my head above the proverbial water. For anyone less familiar with gaming, the information may be an overload. But then, if you aren’t a gamer, the book may not appeal to you in the first place. There’s an interesting chicken-or-egg question to ponder.
And spoiler (sort of): there’s a lot (a lot) of gore in here. If you get grossed out easily, proceed with caution. This isn’t the type of book where you can easily skip over the disturbing parts. The characters wound up being the most surprising and interesting part for me. They had more secrets than I expected (and I expect a lot in sci-fi/fantasy), so that was very cool.
Overall, fascinating game and interesting arc, but could be confusing to the wrong crowd. The right crowd, though, will probably eat this up. So if you’re into dark fantasy and gaming and don’t mind violence, this one’s for you.
About Shami Stovall
Shami Stovall is a multi-award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. Before that, she taught history and criminal law at the college level, and loved every second. When she’s not reading fascinating articles and books about ancient China or the Byzantine Empire, Stovall can be found playing way too many video games, especially RPGs and tactics simulators, or hugging John.
If you want to contact her, you can do so at the following locations:
Shami Stovall will be awarding a $25 Amazon or BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.