Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa follows Tyler MacCandless, ADHD gaming enthusiast and wanna be pilot, as he accidentally uncovers the conspiracy behind the game that his pilot mentor, Rick, is paying him to beta test. Considering the title and tagline of the book, it is not much of a surprise that the game is more than just a game. The text does not confirm this immediately, but we get plenty of hints and a buildup of dramatic irony. When Tyler and Ani discover this conspiracy, we are treated to a few smart explorations of morality through their dialog before their untenable situation explodes into life-and-death action complete with chase scenes.
Playing Tyler is a fun, fast-paced read with plenty of action and just enough near-future realism. I generally prefer my science fiction to involve technology that’s a little more ahead of our time, and so I was surprised when Tyler’s story stole my heart with its close-to-home descriptions of heroin addiction, ADHD, and depression. Tyler’s family has a well-woven back story that places a lot of pressure on Tyler separate from the main plot, in a “real life doesn’t stop” fashion that keeps Tyler juggling his priorities. I especially appreciate the fact that messed up lives do not necessarily make for messed up characters, and messed up characters are not necessarily devoid of virtue. Tyler, in particular, comes from a troubled background and lives with severe, untreated ADHD, yet proves to be a capable hero.
Speaking of which – Tyler’s ADHD POV is one of my favorite aspects of the book. T. L. Costa’s incorporation of ADHD-type thought process and behavior into Tyler’s POV makes for a sympathetic, compelling read. Tyler relates to the world differently, and it certainly causes him difficulties at school, but it does not cause him to crash and burn.
Another big part of the book is the love story between Tyler and Ani Bagdorian, who created the game that Tyler is testing but is unaware of its secret implementation. When Tyler and Ani first meet, they are told by the game developers that they cannot talk to each other ever again. Ani attempts to honor this part of her contract, but eventually gives in to Tyler’s incessant emails and her initial good impression of Tyler. Tyler’s pursuit of her is a bit, well, stalker-like, because he keeps sending her messages even after she has declined his interest. However, since we are privy to Tyler’s POV, we know that he is not a dangerous Bad Boy stereotype and his behavior stems from being lonely and head-strong. While I don’t recommend answering obsessive emails from, well, any one, I can forgive this part of the plot because Ani’s decision to contact Tyler is partly based on her moral objection to her company’s rule. From there, their romance progresses normally, almost behind-the-scenes, allowing the conspiracy conflict to take the stage.
At first it appears as if Ani is a second main character, but as most of the other characters are related to Tyler and Ani’s only initial connection to the plot is through the game, her POV is a bit overshadowed by Tyler’s and I would say that she provides more of a strong supporting role. When it comes down to it, it’s Tyler who personally knows the antagonist, and not Ani. Ani also comes from a less troubled background, yet T. L. Costa makes sure to show the reader that both characters have families that are less-than-perfect, with loved ones who lie, or whose best is not good enough to build a life of rainbows and gumdrops.
So, in short, Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa is a thoroughly entertaining near-future adventure. Characters actually die in this. Find out which ones at:
Publisher’s Link: Strange Chemistry
Good Reads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15777845-playing-tyler
Amazon Link: Playing Tyler
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best motivation. You can find out more about her rabid love of SFF, podcasting, and raising future geeklings at her blog, http://wakingdreamsblog.blogspot.com , or twitter stalk her at http://twitter.com/mrsmica