Finished the ARC of Luminarium, by Alex Shakar - a love ballad to the post 9/11 city of Manhattan. Three brothers developed a MMPORG game that has been co-opted by the military for training. Under military financing, the game has become a scrupulously realistic disaster-plagued mirror of Manhattan. Players function as first responders to a terrorist strike at the Empire State building, with plans to eventually expand to a virtual nuclear bombing of Times Square. This has required the re-creation of every building and street, with accurate engineering to allow the most realistic death and destruction. Walking through the game can be more real than the real thing.

When the brother who initially designed the game (as a utopian dream world) lapses into a coma during  cancer treatment, his twin must carry on the fight to divest from military control and return the game to a more idealistic version. But, he's dealing with the stresses of having used up all his finances to keep his twin on life-support, breaking up with his longtime girlfriend, living with his parents again, working with his father as a magician's assistant, and avoiding the suits who are planning to move his company to Florida. He's clearly lost control of his life, and losing touch with the world around him.

On a whim, he volunteers for a neural study that involves having his brain stimulated to create "spritual" experiences - conducted by an attractive 9/11 widow. He also starts receiving text messages from his comatose twin. And seeing him inside the game. And receiving gifts apparently mailed from him. The virtual world, the spiritual world, his memories of growing up with his twin, a romance with his experimenter, and the present-tense "real" world blend and mutate for him, but a love of the city itself is constant throughout this book. Although it's an adult title, mature, thoughtful teens may enjoy the Matrix-like philosophical quest for a meaningful life.

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