Author: Karl Olsberg
Publisher: Manilla (Bonnier Zaffre)
Publication date: October 25th 2016
For role-playing gamers like Mina and Thomas, reality can blur when you spend too much time online. But when Thomas disappears, not only from the virtual world but also from real life, Mina sets out to search for him. When she discovers that other Berliners have gone missing, all of them participants in the same game, she worries that she will be next. Chief Inspector Eisenberg heads up a team that is supposed to track and prevent potential terrorists. But identifying suspects via pattern recognition doesn’t help – you can’t arrest someone before a crime has been committed. Faced with uniting a brilliant but unruly team made up of hackers and coders, Eisenberg is drawn into the puzzle of the missing gamers – all of whom had the same in-game experience immediately before they disappeared.
Will Eisenberg and his team be able to unravel the truth from the fiction before it’s too late?
I was the first surprised by the effect this synopsis had on me. I am not a gamer and I had never read anything set in Germany. I don’t know anything about codes and hackers, and I am too down-to-earth to believe in far-fetched theories. Yet, I loved Delete. Where’s the glitch?
Like many other people, I loved The Matrix. Not for their clothes, although they were pretty cool, but for the what-if theory of a reality behind ours. I love playing God with my Sims. Do they know they are only dots on a computer screen? Do they notice when I trap their grandparents in the pool to kill them? Well, Mina did notice when Thomas disappeared from their online game, causing her to ask questions around. I do know how fast relations strike up online. You easily get used to talking or playing with certain people and you consider them as friends, even though you would probably not tell them. So Mina’s concern talked to me right away. But how do you make people take you seriously when you report an online disappearance? While I was debating what would Mina’s options be, a sci-fi theory crept up on me. Other weird disappearances occurred in the online game, making Mina wonder if the reality she comes back to when she logs out isn’t just another simulation.
Now, stay with me. I can hear you say this is not for you just like I said it was not for me. But have you ever really given it a thought? Because believe me, it you give Delete a shot, you’ll start wondering too. I am not talking about all populations suddenly screaming at the top of their lungs that the world isn’t real and that we are all living a lie. I would have closed the book shut if I had been thrown into a hard sci-fi story telling me nothing is real because I am not ready for this. Here, I am discussing a disturbing idea offered to you in a very convincing way through a story that will make you question if the computer you are reading this review on is a real computer. Weirdly enough, it worked for me. I was so engrossed in everything that was happening that I stopped questioning reality to focus on everything else, accepting that some people believe in life being a giant simulation. It helped that the author justifies all the elements with evidence, I was never lost in the hows and whys, you get all the information you need to make your own opinion on the theory.
Human beings are good at integrating inexplicable things into their world view.
Oh and don’t worry if you think your lack of knowledge will hamper your enjoyment of the story. I know nothing about programming or computer. I panicked when I had to add pages to my blog earlier this week, that tells you just how uncomfortable I am with technology. Yet I never felt at a loss while reading Delete. I got immersed into the story thanks to human feelings, and I was convinced by geeky but easy explanations of the unknown world of online-gaming and all the complicated things that make the 21st century what it is.
On the other side, you have a police department. A very special one with big brains and fast fingers supposed to prevent crime before they happen. Yes, you read that right. Another theory you are not ready for. Eisenberg, the poor man newly in charge of this unit doesn’t believe in it either. But what if he could turn this department into something more? Like a super-team able to connect the dots on the online disappearance of young people?
People would rather look at cute cats on Youtube or watch other people playing computer games in ‘let’s play’ videos instead of engaging with what they call reality — to say nothing of what lies behind it.
Because the story is told through a split narration that fits perfectly, everything makes sense. What glues it all together are the characters, diverse and real, so very real. Mina’s determination to find out the truth is raw and palpable. Eisenberg’s struggles are a real and human as that cup of tea near you and his new assignment another trick of life to make you really earn your salary and your sleep at night. His team is talented but flawed, I couldn’t help but fall for those weird geek policemen, all here for different reasons, all essential to the world, real or not! Glimpses of their lives help you connect to them throughout the book, adding humanity to a cold game of cat and mouse. I would not have enjoyed Delete as much without its unusual casting of protagonists.
But here’s so much more than just a couple of crazy theories and nice geeks to Delete. You are in for a full investigation, the thrill of the chase, hidden bad guys, questionings and police tape. The steady pace that turns into a frantic race against time will make sure you don’t even feel the need to check your phone.
This book masterfully plays with what makes our century special, with the changes in our behavior and the way we interact with each other and see the world. The easy and clear writing leaves room for interpretation and serves as a guide through a real exploration of what is real and just how far things can go. Don’t worry about reality, it is a character in itself in Delete. Don’t worry about theories, the investigation takes care of them.
Take the world, online and not, add a relentless pace and a frantic search for people, good or bad, and indulge in a gripping thriller that will make you think and turn pages faster than you can click on an Amazon deal link.
I would like to thank Carmen Jimenez for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.