Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getting into His Game? Game Over, Pete Watson by Joe Schreiber

On the Saturday morning that I almost triggered the end of the world, I woke up early. I was excited for three reasons:

1) No school.
2) Mom and Dad would be at Dad's company softball game, which meant that I would have the house to myself all day.
3) BRAWL-A-THON 3000 XL!!!!

It's launch day for the upgrade sequel to Pete's favorite video game of all time (way ahead of Mr. Thumb Goes to Market or even Unicorn Zombies.)

And Pete's got the wherewithal to have it, $49.99, all saved up in his change jar. All he's got to do is pedal down to Ready Player One, and he's set to spend the rest of the day being the first in his school to log some levels battling the MechReatures. See, in the new version, time not only flows back and forward, but sideways, and.... well, you get the picture.

Except there's an ominous yellow sticky note at the bottom of the jar:


I.O.U. $20.00.

Love You!

Pete's perfect plan is $20 short. How can he make twenty bucks fast? He rummages under the sofa cushions, but only comes up with three nickels and a fat black marker, but then he trips over a pizza box beside the trash can--and gets a winning entrepreneurial idea.

With the new-found marker Pete makes a sign on the back of the pizza box and soon is ensconced by the garage door, with a slightly confusing sign advertising HUG GARAGE SALE TODAY! Pete pulls out some of the stuff hiding under a tarp in the garage--a treadmill, a soda machine Dad got for Christmas one year, skis, an old TV, and his dad's dusty old boyhood game--THE COMMANDROID 85 VIDEO ARCADE SYSTEM. Pete is sure he'll make enough long green to be gaming by noon.

But sales are nil until a van with a giant bug on top pulls up. The cheerful, orange-overalled Bug Man jumps out, and looks around. His eyes bulge slightly when he spots the Commandroid. "It's a collector's item," Pete points out, hopefully. Pete makes an easy sale and heads to the mall with his moola.

And that's when the game goes to a whole new level.

Pete arrives at the Ready Player One, only to see his father stepping out of a long black car and demanding to know what he did with the Commandroid. And before Pete can come up with even a lame response (What is this Commandroid?"), two guys in black suits jump out of another black car, throw his dad into the back seat, and speed away.

It's game on, as Pete, with the occasional help of his dorky sometimes best-friend Wesley Midwood and Wes's extremely attractive older sister Callie, realizes that he has to right this wrong. Pete discovers that his dad, actually a CIA operative under deep cover , has been using the apparently low-tech Commandroid to communicate with the CIA chief and has been changed into an 8-bit 1980s game character and inserted into the game by a nefarious gamemeister who plans to use the code to rule, or, failing that, to destroy the world. There's just one chance to restore Dad and save the world: Pete Watson, boy gamer, is charged by none other than the President himself to go into the 8-bit universe to release the code to destroy the Bug Man's virus.

I locked eyes with Callie. "Shoot me!"

That was when she pointed the digitizer at me, closed her eyes, and pulled the trigger.

The first thing that I discovered after Callie shot me was that being inside a video game is a lot less fun than being outside one.

The lines of code were closing in around me and tightening like a net.

Author Joe Schreiber, noted for his techno-comic guy sagas, has in his forthcoming Game Over, Pete Watson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014),  a middle-school version of the protagonists in his top-selling young adult techno adventures such as Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick. Pete Watson self-narrates this sci fi spy story as if writing the script for his own video game, aided and abetted by the comic pixelated illustrations of artist Andy Rash, and in Pete and his chubby co-nerd, Wesley, author Schreiber has the perfect characters for more middle-school X-Men-type adventures. Wesley, a.k.a. Mount Flabmore among his circle of gamers, is the perfect comic sidekick, his plunking at the rubber bands on his braces hopefully providing the appropriately twangy sound track to their future adventures. Game on, Pete!

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