Fearing the Future in Nirvana

Nirvana by J.R. Stewart



Nirvana 1

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi (dystopia)
Author: J. R. Stewart
Published: November 2015
Publisher: Blue Moon
Pages: 135 {kindle edition}

Original review on Goodreads

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

Initial Thoughts

. . . hm. Nirvana was a really promising book but I’m a little befuddled by that ending. I was very confused reading some reviews because apparently after September 2015 the book was revised and had a major face-lift – i.e. it became almost a different story. So I just spent an age trying to work out what version I read. I’m pretty sure mine’s the new version – published October 2015. Anyway.

I was really, really enjoying this book up until the end. This had a really cool idea going for it (and I’m not a science-y person so anything amiss there went over my head). It’s set in 2086 when the world is basically dead and the government is corrupted. In any case, there were still a few problems I had with the book. Namely a slight lack of character development for some characters, like Corporal who is just sort of there and doesn’t have a back story to justify any of his actions. But the ending was what killed it for me – it made the entire book seem repetitive and . . . pointless? Of all the ways this could have ended I’m left with far too many questions and great confusion as to the point of half of this book.

That being said, I am still interested to continue the series to see if it redeems itself. I’m so sad to give this a 3/5, I really thought this was going to be a 4/5. Oh well.

What it’s About

Nirvana is the story of Larissa – a girl who is the lead singer in a Punk band (I think, I’m having a mental blank on what type of band it was) and since before the world went to pieces she’s been protesting to stop maltreatment of animals in labs and also to help save the earth. Unfortunately, all is for naught – the bees go extinct and this kick-starts a chain reaction that results in natural resources running out and an all powerful government assuming control. It’s reasonably realistic in comparison to our future considering our concerns about where the world is heading. Those in power live a life of privilege, able to use technology to create a false world, as it was before, around them. The rest live lives of poverty.

A technological advancement has taken this world by storm: Nirvana – it’s a virtual reality that everyone uses because you can do whatever you like in that virtual reality and it’s much more preferable to reality. It is a requirement that everyone spends a certain amount of time in there and Larissa and her boyfriend, Andrew, work within Hexagon (the government group) in monitoring people’s sessions in Nirvana.

But Andrew and Larissa hate everything that Hexagon is doing; they’re controlling and manipulative – and whilst in Nirvana, Hexagon is able to ‘watch’ people’s thoughts and therefore remove any threat to their system and power if anything should arise. It’s pretty scary and means that our protagonist must keep on her toes to not get caught out.

The clinch comes when Andrew goes missing, he’s presumed dead and now it’s up to Larissa to finish his work. She’s not quite as tech savvy as he was but she has to try or face Hexagon becoming a ruthless power that eradicates all people who don’t completely conform to their dystopian rulership. And it’s amazing.

Just like Tom’s hair is amazing


What I loved

There was so much going for this book – the action is real and the pace is super fast. I enjoyed Larissa’s character, and whilst I think she could have benefitted from being even more developed in a longer book, she was a great character to take this world by its horns. Her background with music and her band were a cool addition to her character as she is able to rally support in a realistic manner through her followers. I myself, didn’t really enjoy her songs, however. I find it difficult/impossible to create a tune in my head when I’m given lyrics on a page – it results in the impact being lost and the whole thing seeming a little weird and lame in my mind. But that’s my fault. Larissa is a greatly passionate person who doesn’t have any ‘special abilities’ – she’s just doing what she can to try and bring back and salvage what is left of her world.

I enjoyed Andrew as a character, too. Although we don’t really get to see that much of him, he helps to add depth to the nefarious plots swirling around in the background. We know what Larissa knows and therefore aren’t ‘in’ with what Hexagon is really doing. But Andrew seems to be – and him and his trusted crew are trying to work undercover to fix things, which of course Hexagon does not want – because as soon as things are fixed, what need is there for this ’emergency’ government? Hexagon is just making face by existing and ‘solving’ problems without actually making progress to ensure they remain in power.

When Andrew ‘disappears’ his reappearances to Larissa in Nirvana were so cool. I was on edge, worried that they would get found out. It was really well thought out how, because he’s a super genius, he’s able to hack the system whilst Larissa plays out her memories, and only she knows when the ‘lines’ deviate from the original. In this way, she’s able to tell whether it is just a playback, or whether Andrew has hijacked the program and is actually, virtually with her. SO COOL.

The Bubble and the Confusion

I want to discuss a couple of key plot elements here, the bubble and the confusion of characters when it comes to good guys vs. bad guys.

The Bubble was where the wealthy and powerful people lived. It was exclusive and to even spend a night there (for those not privileged to live there) was very costly. It represented everything that was wrong with the world – despite natural resources on the verge of non-existence, these people are flaunting their wealth and luxurious lifestyles with not a thought for those struggling outside. There’s a lot of attention focused on building up this hatred towards the government but I felt the story lacked on the side of the people.

Disappointed Colin is disappointed

We get plenty of information through Larissa’s perspective as to what people are enduring lifestyle-wise, but as she works within Hexagon we don’t really get a glimpse of every day life for people. This is something you have to build up for yourself. There are copious flash backs to acknowledge that for the most part this ‘apocalypse’ is a recent occurrence, but I would have loved to have seen more of the ordinary world outside of this drama. In this sense, the story is tightly revolved around Larissa’s world – it doesn’t ever expand much beyond that. This world is a bit of a detail-less blur for me.

On top of this, I did get very confused. Whilst the story was rapturing enough that I didn’t mind at the time, I was baffled when it came to some characters as to whether they were actually good or not. The side characters were not developed well, I thought. We understand those who are pure evil, but so many of the others were wrapped up in layers of mysteriousness so that you legitimately could not work out who they were swinging for until a super crucial moment happened. So . . . at the end, mostly. I thought this was a shame because whilst it’s fun to have dubious characters it was frustrating to have them seem to swing one way and then the other so frequently – I couldn’t guess because I just had nothing to go on.

Should You Read This?

I want to say yes. I didn’t enjoy the ending but I’m sure lots of people will. As I said earlier, the way things concluded was an . . . interesting . . . choice in my opinion. Stewart has created a really kick-ass dystopian where there is oodles of action and character arcs aplenty to give you headaches. But I was just so disappointed with the ending. With this ending I feel like we just locked ourselves into an never ending loop of events, I didn’t feel like the story then achieved much, and I just thought it was a bizarre choice of conclusion. It’s almost as if the plot itself has failed to grow and develop? But a small part of me says this will all be explained in the next book and I’ll be able to make peace with it.

Shush, this gif is totally relevant



So in short, if you’re interested in this story (and I think you should be) then give it a go. It’s short book (unfortunately) but the story is a lot of fun and involves some genuinely fascinating ideas. Not to mention the cover is amazing. This was a really great book with a disappointing ending and slightly lacking characters, but all of these things are I think are subjective – so you might love this book! Who knows?!

Have you read Nirvana? What did you think?

Nirvana Text

Let me know in the comments below!

View all my reviews

End Note

~~ Kirstie ~~

4 thoughts on “Fearing the Future in Nirvana

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