The Everlasting Road is the second volume in Wab Kinew’s Floraverse young adult fantasy. The first volume is reviewed here.
Anishinaabe teen Bagonegiizhigok “Bugz” Holiday has vanquished her Clan:LESS rivals, but has not been able to restore her position (and income from said position) in the online Floraverse. Personal tragedy has distracted her: her brother has recently died of cancer.
Bugz has come up with a bold coping mechanism for grief. It is one a certain Doctor Frankenstein would recognize.
The Floraverse’s AI can support sophisticated, detailed characters. Bugz turns her efforts to creating a simulation of her late brother, Waawaate, in the Floraverse. Bugz being highly skilled, the result is a convincing simulation of Waawaate. While the simulation is limited to the Floraverse, it is better than nothing. Or so she thinks.
While Bugz isn’t the celebrity she was in the first volume, she is still exposed to public scrutiny, particularly by people who hope to elevate their own status by critiquing Bugz. Thus, what should be private decisions, such as taking part in social events, are lambasted as contrary to Anishinaabe tradition. The arguments are specious … but it’s not as if that matters in online pile-ons.
Bugz does at least have her boyfriend Feng’s support. However, the Uyghur teen has distractions of his own. After his still-across-the ocean parents publicly submitted to the Chinese government, they have been allowed to leave China for North America. Feng hasn’t seen his parents for years, not since he was kidnapped by the Chinese government. The prospect of a reunion is daunting.
But back to the simulated Waawaate. The simulation may not be a person (that’s arguable) but it is quite creative when it comes to harassing and punishing Clan:LESS rivals. When an alarmed Bugz discovers what her creation is up to and attempts to intervene, she discovers that the simulation won’t listen and won’t stop. Indeed, it adds her to its enemy list.
No, Waawaate did not miraculously survive cancer. Welcome to CanLit, where each year’s Christmas card list is shorter than the previous year’s. But he did survive in an afterlife of sorts, where he has his own plotline.
Some readers might wonder just how much trouble something confined to what amounts to a MMORPG can cause for people in the real world. Quite a lot, as it turns out. For example, everyone has phones, which can be hijacked to force users to choose between being offline or never sleeping again. As long as the MMORPG is not firewalled off from the internet, a simulation can do a lot of damage.
In Bugz’s defense, she has no reason to believe that a keepsake simulation of her dead brother would go berserk. Readers might have suspected something like this (horror, CanLit), but so far Bugz’s Floraverse career has been wildly successful.
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I liked the previous volume. While Everlasting has a real ending, it still feels like an intermediate volume in an ongoing series, setting up developments whose resolution is deferred for later volumes.
I should note that author Kinew seems able to maintain an impressive writing pace despite the distraction of being leader of a provincial opposition party. Other opposition leaders need to shape up.