The chilling premise of Karl Olsberg’s Boy in a White Room is enough to lure any reader, let alone its intended YA audience, into reading this futuristic sci-fi thriller. Not to mention it has sold over 40,000 copies in Germany alone and has since been optioned for TV development by Netflix. The story goes like this, a boy wakes to find himself locked in an enclosed white room. He has no memories, no idea who he is or how he got there. His only link to finding out the truth is through a computer generated AI. But as the boy gradually pieces together his story – an abduction, a critical injury, a murder – the lines between reality and fantasy, truth and deception, begin to blur. Who is he really? And what lies beyond the white room…
What originally gave me serious Inception meets Ready Player One meets Alex Rider vibes, quickly became this bizarre, anticlimactic, down-the-rabbit-hole storyline that haphazardly weaves in the worlds of Alice in Wonderland, The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix. With that said, Olsberg does pack a lot of thought-provoking and philosophical themes into his short, punchy chapters. The overall journey into the protagonist’s subconscious is artfully executed, and the topics surrounding identity, creation, and artificial intelligence make for fascinating conservation starters.
Fans of Ben Oliver’s The Loop, Celia Rees’s Glass Town Wars, and More Than This by Patrick Ness will enjoy this one. Also, for further reading, I read in an interview with Karl Olsberg that he was inspired by an essay by Nick Bostrom, ‘Are You Living in a Computer Stimulation?’.
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