Growing Pains: The Proving Grounds

The massive virtual reality game The Proving Grounds had a bit of a rocky start, but with some outside help the developers got it under control.

But technological progress doesn’t wait for anyone and a new advance is already in the works: a form of input that builds on their standing devices and works via the players thoughts. Early tests were less than successful, which saw the device shelved early in production, but now a new test subject has been found…

An unconscious subject. Peter is a coma patient whose doctors heard about the device and reached out to the company in hopes of maybe getting a glimpse into his mind.

They got more. Much more. Peter has awoken to a new world, but a world he is unable to leave as he is still comatose on the outside. In the hopes of gathering more data and finding a way to help him, he’s let out into the world… with some oversight.

Unfortunately, nothing new comes without issues to resolve, and the timing couldn’t be worse as new problems spring up around them. But when the world is in danger and he is sent away for his own safety, Peter finds it hard to sit idle. After all, his friends and his new world, his only world, need the help.

And yet it’s possible none of these problems would have arisen without him…

My Opinion: 267 pages, $3.99, available on Kindle Unlimited

Every time Wade Adrian puts out a new Proving Grounds books, for some reason I’m surprised by the improvement in his story telling. I say each time “Oh, this is better.”

I’d consider this a stand-alone novel in the Proving Grounds game world more than a sequel to anything else in series, though some familiar faces to make appearances and there are some call backs to the other books.

Pete’s been in a coma for the last two years and is using an experimental neural interface that’s allowed his mind to wake up and exist in the game. His doctors hope this stimulation will help him wake up but as far as the story goes it’s a new way to explain the ‘trapped in the game’ troupe. The first chapter sets up a potentially fascinating journey as Peter proves he can not only exist in the game world but actually feel pain and a full sensory experience. Something the other players can’t.

Unfortunately, these raised stakes for Pete are a wasted story opportunity for the first 30% of the book as he’s taken through character creation then escorted by the game developers through his first level up, and later power leveled.

My favorite parts of the story are the times Pete gets to explore the game world, fight on his own, learn about what his class can do and even do some crafting.

It’s a lot more interesting than the more epic story of the devs and heralds dealing with the consequences of events that happened in the last two books and why the game world is glitching.

I’d give the story a 7 out of 10.

Growing Pains: The Proving Grounds