5 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Doomed by Tracy Deebs

DoomedTitle: Doomed

Author: Tracy Deebs

Genre: Thriller, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Walker Childrens
Publication Date: January 2013
Hardcover: 480 Pages

Beat the game. Save the world.

Pandora’s just your average teen, glued to her cell phone and laptop, surfing Facebook and e-mailing with her friends, until the day her long-lost father sends her a link to a mysterious site featuring twelve photos of her as a child. Unable to contain her curiosity, Pandora enters the site, where she is prompted to play her favorite virtual-reality game, Zero Day. This unleashes a global computer virus that plunges the whole world into panic: suddenly, there is no Internet. No cell phones. No utilities, traffic lights, hospitals, law enforcement. Pandora teams up with handsome stepbrothers Eli and Theo to enter the virtual world of Zero Day. Simultaneously, she continues to follow the photographs from her childhood in an attempt to beat the game and track down her father, her one key to saving the world as we know it. Part The Matrix, part retelling of the Pandora myth, Doomed has something for gaming fans, dystopian fans, and romance fans alike.

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Pandora series

How did I get this book: e-ARC from the Publisher (which expired), bought

Format (e- or p-): e-ARC (via NetGalley which expired), bought ebook

Why did I read this book: I’m a sucker for a good apocalyptic novel, film, tv show, or comic. Seriously. You’d think with the apocalypse/dystopia overhaul that I’d be fed up with the subgenre by now, but I’m not. Needless to say, I was intrigued by Doomed‘s mix of apocalyptic speculative fiction and MMORPGs. (Come on, how could I resist?!)


In these letters are the answers to any question I could imagine you asking. About me. About yourself. About your mother and her relationship with me. About why we’ve chosen to live our lives so far apart. If you want to know these things, click on the link I’ve included. If you don’t, ignore it and I promise I’ll never contact you again.

Most girls get presents, time with friends and family, and other warm and fuzzy surprises on their 17th birthdays. Pandora’s birthday, however, is anything but warm and fuzzy, especially when her emotionally distant mother is off on a work trip and forgets her daughter’s birthday. But then, Pandora receives an email from the last person she’d ever expect to hear from – her father, who took off when Pandora was just a baby. For as long as she can remember, Pandora’s father has been painted as a bogeyman by her mother – not to be trusted, never to be contacted, and any notes or letters from him to be completely ignored.

But, true to her namesake, Pandora cannot help but open the email, and click on the link within.

Soon after, the whole world begins to change. The internet shuts down, followed by telephone service, and electricity. Pandora’s neighborhood, then city, then country goes black – the only thing that works is the the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Pandora’s Box. Everything is tied back to Pandora – she must figure out what is going on, evade the authorities, and defeat the game in 10 days, or else the world literally comes to an end.

Doomed is the latest novel from Tracy Deebs, and an action-packed pseudo-cyber-thriller – it’s kind of like World of Warcraft meets Cory Doctorow’s For the Win meets TV show Revolution. That’s a pretty potent concoction, if pulled off correctly. Unfortunately, while Doomed is full of action, there’s no real direction to the story – this, coupled with a lack of internal world logic and overlong writing style makes Doomed a sadly underwhelming read.

On the plotting side of the equation, the overall thrust and idea of the book is simple and effective: beat the game, save the world. I like the idea of Pandora’s missing father finally making contact after so many years, the tongue-in-cheek sarcasm as Pandora literally opens a virtual box to start playing the game, unleashing chaos on the cyber and physical world. The mix of physical action and virtual action (within the game landscape) is also pretty cool and effectively written by Deebs – when the action gets going, it’s pretty groovy stuff. That said, these bursts of action are punctuated by some bizarrely detail-focused, step-by-step writing that isn’t necessary to the story and is frankly…boring. For example:

Eventually my hunger gets the best of me, so I grab my laptop and cruise down to the kitchen. On the way, I flick on the television and start streaming the first season of Supernatural, right where I left off, at episode 4, “Phantom Traveler.” Then I head to the pantry and pour myself a bowl of cereal. Crunch Berries, of course. Between mothfuls I open up my laptop and boot it up. I play around for a while – Facebook stuff, checking out the Cliffs Notes for Othello, looking for a new pair of boots because my old ones are pretty much trashed. by then it’s after five thirty and my mom still hasn’t called. I check my phone to see if I missed a text from here – sometimes reception can be spotty in the house – but there’s nothing.

While this is fantastic information that could be portrayed in a few seconds on camera were this a movie, the blow-by-blow of Pandora’s afterschool eating, tv watching, and online shopping experience has absolutely NO significance to the book. Needless to say, this type of granularity puts a damper on any enthusiasm or forward momentum in the overall story. (This same sort of thing is repeated later, in mile long walks in the dark, deciding which arrow keys to push on the computer, and so on.)

Of course, the larger problem is that the action in Doomed feels scattered, without purpose or direction – the underlying reason for the Pandora’s Box Worm is kind of ridiculous, the motivations for the book’s villain laughably thin and poorly conceived. There are also a number of convenient outs for Pandora, thanks to her love interests Eli and Theo – in addition to being incredibly dreamy, Theo happens to be a supreme hacker (THE ONLY supreme hacker) that can stop the worm that has shut down the planet.

Which brings me to the romance. The love triangle between Pandora and two stepbrothers – Eli (charming and blonde and sunny) and Theo (brooding and dark-haired and brilliant – is trite and predictable. OF COURSE these two boys are new in town and barely know Pandora but are instantly willing to do ALL THE THINGS to help her on this bizarre quest. OF COURSE they are both supremely dreamy and into Pandora. OF COURSE Pandora is totally attracted to Theo, who belittles her repeatedly at the beginning of the book (this is after he tries to strangle her in English class to prove a point about Othello and she is sooooo turned on by it). I am also not a fan of attraction to male characters that belittle or try to strangle their ladies (the rationale that Theo is messed up because of his father’s death compounds the problem). Not sexy. Not attractive. NO.

Despite the strength of its premise and its few moments of entertainment, Doomed unfortunately failed to impress. I won’t be around for the next books in the series (and even on that note, I really don’t have any clue as to where the next book in the series will go…).

Notable Quotes/Parts: From the official excerpt:

“That’s not the really puzzling part,” Agent Lessing finally continues. “Especially if you insist on your innocence in this matter, how is it that starting at seven-fifteen this morning, someone from this IP address opened the twelve different sections of code that make up this worm and uploaded them onto the internet, one by one?”

Emily gasps and I want to protest. I want to tell the FBI agent that she’s crazy. That I have no idea what she’s talking about. But the truth of the matter is that suddenly I do. I know exactly what I was doing at seven-fifteen this morning.

The tentative fairy tale I’ve been building in my head all day—the one I wasn’t even aware of until right now—collapses. I swear, I feel it shatter and my stomach, though close to empty, chooses that moment to revolt. I spring up from my chair.

“Hey, you can’t go anywhere. Sit back down!” Lessing tells me firmly, reaching into her jacket and pulling out her gun.

I don’t stop; I can’t. Even so, I barely make it to the trash can in time. I don’t know how long I sit there, puking my guts up, but by the time I finish, Lessing has put away her gun. Emily is looking at me in dismay, while Mackaray and Lundstrom—who rushed in at Lessing’s alarmed shout—are wearing identical expressions of smug triumph. Even Lessing seems satisfied, and I know it’s because I’ve blown it big time.

It’s pretty hard to protest your innocence when you get so upset by what they’re telling you that you hurl.

I don’t get up right away. Instead, I stay on the floor, my head resting against the cool wood of a cabinet. I think about my laptop, stuffed in my backpack, with all the incriminating evidence on it. I think about what else is in the bag—namely the pictures from my father that I’d shoved in there at the last minute. All twelve of them.

You can read the full excerpt online HERE.

Rating: 5 – Meh

Reading Next: Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

Buy the Book:

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Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook, kobo, google play, sony & iBooks

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  • Daniel B.
    January 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Thorough review. I can’t help but see similarities with “Ready Player One” in the some of the elements you describe.

  • hapax
    January 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    What drove me bonkers was the way the brothers pulled out of their, um, hat, whatever esoteric skill the plot called for. When OF COURSE near the end of their road trip, Eli JUST HAPPENED to know how to do That Thing (you know what I mean, but I’m avoiding spoilers here) I literally threw the book against the wall.

    This was supposed to be a series? I can’t imagine how.

  • TFC
    January 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I’d been really looking forward to reading this one, not quite as sure now. I think the descriptions of exactly which episode of Supernatural she was watching would drive me crazy (and also very thoroughly date the book to be no longer relevant once that show is off the air and eventually simmers out). Just seems really amateur to throw a wrench in the action like that. That whole paragraph you listed could be summed up in “I wasted time on the computer while waiting for a text from my mom.” or something… I don’t need the whole play by play! I’m a little surprised stuff like that actually made it to the final copy of the book.

    Great review 🙂

  • Thea
    January 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Daniel B – YES there are definitely some Ready Player One similarities, although that book is much, much better IMO!

    Hapax – HAH! There was one line that I *really* wanted to quote but won’t because of spoilers but I actually did burst out into giggles on the train when I got to the end because of the sheer over the top ridiculous skills Theo demonstrates. COME ON.

  • Thea
    January 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    TFC – Right?!? I appreciate detail and nuance, but there are passages like this throughout that do nothing for the story (except add to the page count and frustrate the reader).

    That said, if you do get a chance to read this one, let me know what you think! A lot of reviews have been pretty positive for DOOMED, so you never know.

  • Tom
    January 24, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Nice, but needs some work. One can certainly feel what the book is trying to say. ” underneath all the evils and horrors of the world there is still hope”. Brilliant, magnificent, enchanting are words to describe this as. 🙂

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    March 4, 2013 at 8:04 am

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