Not one of Scalzi’s best. Oh, it’s a lot of fun in his trade-mark out-smart-the bad-guys mold, but doesn’t have quite the snappy start you expect from him. The four-page opening data dump disguised as a “cheat sheet” kills the momentum.
The big problem is that after spending the first half of the novel establishing his villains as evil geniuses, they sit on their hands through the second half while his hero and friends brings them down. Would have been more realistic—and exciting—if the baddies eavesdrop on said hero and/or threatened him physically. Yeah, they try to kill him but that’s clumsy. A threat inside his virtual world would raise the stakes. (Spoiler: the baddest guy is supposed to be a programming genius. Why isn’t he inside their heads?) The whole thing is just too easy.
That said, the characterization is Scalzi at his best. Subtle, sometimes droll cast who grow on the reader and each other. Scalzi admits that his contacts with the deaf community helped him give depth to the internal and external tensions to the Hadens. Scalzi goes the extra mile to populate all his books with a broad spectrum of realistic people. Good job.
A fine novel, just not up to his usual manic excellence.