Meg Eden’s first novel, Post-High School Reality Quest, (due to be published next year by California Coldblood books) explores the engagement of science-fiction with technology, and blurs the lines of reality through the touching way in which it examines and amplifies the difficult situations of every day life.
The novel follows Buffy, a young student who begins to show signs of schizophrenia on her high school graduation day. Eden, however, doesn’t simply stick to first and second person narration. Instead, she uses Buffy’s disorder to narrate the story, just as it does Buffy’s life – the prose on the page has much the same appearance as a Twine game, or Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story, with a series of choices interspersing the brief snippets of second person narration.
This unique style of writing is gripping enough that it makes Eden’s novel stand out from others within this genre. It flows as easily as an actual game, and even uses appropriate jargon, such as the “Exit” and “Save” options when Buffy is faced with difficult situations, in a very similar way to that of a text parser game. The only times the novel deviates from this style are when Buffy is receiving treatment. Here, Eden shifts to the narrative “I” as the scenes transition through time.
Whilst Eden uses the game to draw out the unreal elements of Buffy’s life, it also directs her through the very real and very traumatic issues that both her and those around her experience. The story deals with mental disorders, suicide, and eating disorders, as well as the usual day-to-day worries that any average teenage girl has to deal with – including romance. In some ways, Eden’s novel could also be described as a coming of age story; in its pages Buffy takes on the frightening prospect of leaving high school and becoming an adult, all while her schizophrenia becomes steadily more evident.
One point of interest with Post High School Reality Quest is that it portrays video games as being very much like actual life. It’s not an unfair lens; in everyday situations we have to make decisions in order to continue, just as Buffy does within her “game”. But, unlike in a game, in real life you cannot save over some moments with others, or start a section again. This underlying element of the text questions the integrity of the thin veil of reality through the creative exploration of both mental disorders and modern day technology.
Eden’s novel is fascinating due to its themes and written style, but it also manages to be an enticing tale based on its plot alone. As Buffy’s story unfurls, so does that of her friends, revealing a series of dark and heartbreaking secrets that Buffy is intially too wrapped up in her own situation to notice. The plot deepens as it develops, with increased action and some genuinely shocking twists. Post High School Reality Quest will no doubt be one of the science fiction highlights of the year when it is published in June 2017 by California Coldblood Books, and is likely to be a huge hit with its readers too.
Hannah Scorfield currently works and lives in Leeds, England, hoping to one day become a bestselling author of fantasy novels. Failing that, she’ll settle with working within the publishing industry as an editor or literary agent. Her hobbies include reading, writing and going to the pub, and she has a fascination with the woods and other natural spaces. You can watch videos of Hannah reviewing more books on her YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/cuppabooks or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more freelance writing.