Vicarious is a book I've been looking forward to ever since reading the premise. It kind of reminds me of the movie Strange Days with its take on virtual reality experiences. Winter Kim is a Korean victim of trafficking and has found a new life with her sister Rose and a man named Gideon who has developed a technology called ViSE, or Vicarious Sensory Experiences. Winter and Rose wear a ViSE headset and record themselves doing dangerous things, whether making out with strangers in a club or jumping off bridges. Gideon sells these sensory experiences to customers who pay big money to experience a vicarious thrill.
The problem is Rose gets killed and whoever did it sends a ViSE recording of her death to Gideon. Winter is determined to find the killer and make them pay, and of course the ViSE's play a big role- especially when they reveal that not all is as it seems. I liked the way the technology was presented, there's a sense of tension whenever Winter puts on a headset and experiences things. And as I read this I was reminded again of Strange Days, I got the same claustrophobic vibe whenever someone put a headset on and jacked in, so to speak. And the twisty nature of the plot and the surprises also recalled the movie for me.
Having said that I want to stress that this is not a ripoff of the movie. Here we have the trafficking angle, the sisters' relationship with themselves and Gideon, little glimpses into Korean culture, and a burgeoning romance between Winter and Jesse, an ex- military guy who also works for Gideon and has a thing for Winter. She's damaged from her abuse and not ready to take that step with Jesse, and even though he's rough around the edges he waits for her and has her back. But the way the story is told you're never really sure who you can trust, and I liked that.
There's a huge twist towards the end and even though I was expecting one I wasn't expecting this. To be honest I liked this story but didn't love it in the early going but the twist shook everything up- and there's actually two twists really. I liked Winter and Jesse but had trouble with Gideon- here's a guy who rescued the girls from human traffickers and gives them a new life but also lets them take risks to sell digital experiences. So what is the deal with this guy? I was never sure what I thought about him, but beyond that he didn't really click for me as a character, he was more of a plot device.
This is the first of a duology and this one tells a complete story, which I liked, with a plot thread hanging that will be resolved in the next book. I will definitely be reading that one to see where this goes next, and while this one didn't amaze me it was a solid read. I loved where the author took the tech and I liked how tough but vulnerable Winter was. I can't wait to see the role the ViSE's play in the next one.