26 January 2010

Book Review: The Night Room by E.M. Goldman

The Night Room
by E.M. Goldman

Publisher: Viking Penguin
ISBN: 0670858382
Paperback: 216 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Sci-Fi
Source: Purchased at Dollar General.
Time to read: 3 days
aStore Link: The Night Room

| Enjoyability: 5 | Readability: H | Characterization: 3 | Overall: A- |
(Traditional Rating: 4.5 Stars)

Seven high school juniors are selected to participate in a computer program project called Argus, a simulator that thrusts each individual to their tenth high school reunion.  By combining lifestyle patterns obtained through student interviews, the students get a glimpse of what could be their futures.  As frightening and enlightening as that is, they also discover that one member of their group is missing from the reunion, a memorial plaque revealing her date of death.  Each successive student's experience with Argus adds another layer to the building suspense as Ira and the others try to figure out what happened to her and what they can do to stop it.  Through it all, the students discover more about themselves, their relationships, and the value of living.

The story in third-person narrative mainly follows student Ira Martinic, with a few side stories involving other members of the teen test group, as well as some behind-the-scenes drama with people directly involved in the production of Argus. 

My Reaction
When I saw that Goldman dedicated the book "To the Crew of the Starships Enterprise" and read her bio, I figured I would fit right in with her style of writing.  Throughout the book, the characters refer to Argus as a version of the Holodeck from the Star Trek series, and it was a fair approximation without being a complete copy of the idea.  The copyright date of 1995 placed the book in the timeline of when Star Trek: The Next Generation was a current series, which incidentally was the same time I was young and watching the series.  I related to this book well.

Although the 11th grade characters were a small sampling of typical school caricatures (school paper reporter, all-around nice guy, chick everyone wants to date, jock), Goldman did a good job of rounding them out as they reacted to their simulated future selves.  The background story involving the Argus developer and her assistants adds sufficient information to the story, as well as more interest in their characters.  In fact, I think I would really enjoy another book focusing on some of the college students' experiences with Argus that led up to the high school experiment.

Though written for the secondary school age bracket, The Night Room I think appeals to anyone who has been in high school and can remember those moments when planning for an adult future was all at once exciting, frightening, and intriguing.  Fans of Star Trek: TNG will also appreciate some humorous parallels.

Want this book?  Care to help out LeviSamJuno, too?  Click to buy The Night Room from my aStore.

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