Karen Hancock (The Enclave, Legend of the Guardian-King series) brings us Arena. It is a science fiction adventure that, as one reviewer put it, combines The Matrix with Pilgrim’s Progress. It is a thrill ride that will keep you hooked to the very end.
The plot is divided into two parts. The first deals with a young woman named Callie who, thinking she’s taking a college psych-test, ends up in the “arena” a place that aliens developed to test the limits of human loyalty. She encounters several other humans along the way, including her love interest Pierce. Part two deals with the company meeting a race of aliens that are trying to help the humans escape with guidance from their leader Elhanu. As a true game, Elhanu and his followers are forbidden from giving the humans everything, but they try to help the humans with weapons, minds, mental links, etc.
The book is a great read all the way through. It will keep you hooked as you follow Callie and her friends (and sometimes enemies) through the arena as they search for the path to the exit and back to Earth. One problem I found with the book was primarily in part two. The author has written this as a metaphor for journeying through life and Elhanu is obviously Father God. The problem was she did not hide it very well. The metaphors were very obvious and easy to spot. In fact, when they explain the origin of the aliens and even the arena, it’s obvious that the story is derivative.
That being said, it is an excellent and powerful story of a journey through one of the deadliest challenges that a human can face. It is a good read that will have you hook as soon as you pick it up.