Review - Alpha Omega by Nicholas Bowling

Title: Alpha Omega

Publisher: Titan Books

Release Date: 1st July 2020

Source: NetGalley

Stranger Things meets Black Mirror and Ready Player One in this unsettling, near-future science fiction standalone.  

Something is rotten in the state of the NutriStart Skills Academy

With the discovery of a human skull on the playing fields, children displaying symptoms of an unfamiliar, grisly virus and a catastrophic malfunction in the site's security system, the NSA is about to experience a week that no amount of rebranding can conceal. As the school descends into chaos, teacher Tom Rosen goes looking for answers - but when the real, the unreal and the surreal are indistinguishable, the truth can be difficult to recognise.

One pupil, Gabriel Backer, may hold the key to saving the school from destroying itself and its students, except he has already been expelled. Not only that - he has disappeared down the rabbit-hole of "Alpha Omega" - the world's largest VR role-playing game, filled with violent delights and unbridled debauchery. But the game quickly sours. Gabriel will need to confront the real world he's been so desperate to escape if he ever wants to leave...


Stranger Things meets Black Mirror and Ready Player One - well I have only seen one episode of Black Mirror and that was the one with the freaky robotic killer dogs, there wasn’t any of them in the book that I could see, so I’m thinking Stranger Things meets Ready Player One meets Grange Hill.  That reference might be lost on my readers who don’t live in the UK - Google it, you are in for a treat.

Anyway I digress, Alpha Omega is a satirical look at a world gone mad, set in our near future, kids are attached to electronic learning pads, tech companies are taking over and people are telling us what to eat - actually that sounds exactly like 2020, but imagine it ten times more sinister.

The book is told from the POV of several different characters, Tom the disenchanted teacher, Alice the archaeologist, Gabriel the expelled student and avid gamer, his blind mother Stephanie and Alex a young boy whose sinister discovery kickstarts the book.  The setting is split between the real world and the world of Alpha Omega an online universe where you can do anything accessed with VR headsets.

Alex and his pals attended the Nutri Start Skills Academy, a school where literally everything is monitored by their pads and cameras watch their every move. Alex manages to evade them and explore a building site where he discovers some rather grisly objects - a skull and two skeletal hands, being a boy he doesn’t leave them behind, he shoves them in his backpack and sneaks back to school.  Things start to go rapidly downhill, are the bones cursed somehow?

Kids start to bleed profusely from their noses, their ears, Tom the kindly teacher is worried, more so when the creepy headteacher doesn’t really seem to care and escorts the children off the premises.  He has every right to be worried as more and more kids start pouring with blood, acting strangely and eating things they definitely should not be eating, the school is hiding something and when an ill organised security update goes badly wrong the school descends in to bloody chaos.

Whilst this is happening Gabriel who was expelled from Nutri Start is lured in to working for Alpha Omega, his version of the online universe bends and shapes itself to his every sick wish, but he quickly tires of being a hamster in the Nutri Start wheel and questions his paymasters motives.

Our protagonists find their lives intertwined and they slowly come together to try and find out what the hell is happening at the school, the book is not merely a science fiction explosion its also a bit of detective story too as our cast of characters delve in to the murky underworld of Nutri Start and Alpha Omega.

Just reading this back, the book sounds bonkers but it is bonkers fun, it does not take itself too seriously and there is a definite Britishness about it.  It brings together a great cast of characters and they all play a vital role.  The book is scary too, is this type of future coming closer to us?  Most likely but hopefully with out all the blood and craziness!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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10 comments

  1. Faces without eyes give me the creeps!!!

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  2. Wonderful review! This instantly piqued my curiosity by drawing comparisons with Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and Ready Player One. Thanks for sharing! :D

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  3. Totally off topic, but I need to go looking for an ebook copy of The Last Dog on Earth, again. When it first came out there was no US version, thanks for reminding me. 👍✨

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    1. I was wondering how you got to that but its come up as a related! Yep it was a great book, hope you manage to get your hand on it.

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  4. Haha I love that you've related it to Grange Hill, what a throwback! This sounds like REALLY dark, probably too dark for me, and yet it's definitely piqued my interest...

    Thanks for sharing your review! 😊

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  5. This sounds intriguing and I like Stranger Things and Black Mirror. Great review!

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