Editorial Review: Red Screen by Daniel Burke

Editorial Review: Red Screen by Daniel Burke



Virtual reality becomes a little too real when players of the Lands of Might and Magic end up murdered in real life after their characters are killed in-game. 

Red Screen is the story of two people who both excel at what they do. Parker Reid is a profiler for the FBI, who, despite some tragedies in his personal life, is still the best in the business. Shea Britton is one of the top players in the Lands of Might and Magic, an online fantasy simulation game played in virtual reality. Parker is called in to track down a serial killer who is murdering people in their beds and taking grisly trophies. Meanwhile, Shea finds herself drawn into a hunt for an evil player called The Gray Warrior, who is eliminating the best players in the game, one by one. Typically, their paths would never cross, but it soon becomes clear that Parker and Shea are hunting the same person, and the stakes are much higher for Shea than she ever imagined. 

Red Screen, which refers to the last thing players see when their characters are killed in The Lands of Might and Magic, blends two genres that are not commonly mixed. From Parker's perspective, it is a slow and methodical hunt for a serial killer and all the bureaucratic red tape that goes along with it. From Shea's perspective, it is almost a fantasy adventure as her online character, Darshana, navigates the deadly online world of the Lands of Might and Magic. Parker and Shea couldn't be more different, but Daniel Burke managed to write both of them in such a manner that it was hard not to root for them. The same goes for the secondary characters, such as Falin, who has their own tragic backstory. The author is also very good at keeping the suspense up, and there are plenty of heart-stopping moments in the game and reality. 

Red Screen could easily have ended up as a jargon-filled mess, but to the author's credit, the story is written in such a way that even non-gamers will be drawn in. Reid is an old-school profiler, and having the Metaverse explained to him by some of the more tech-savvy characters is an excellent way of describing the concept to readers without appearing condescending. On the other hand, readers who are frequent online gamers will immediately understand the draw that Shea feels to the Lands of Might and Magic and why her character means so much to her. 

Overall, Red Screen is a must-read for fans of thrillers and online gaming. However, the story is compelling enough that even readers who might not be clued up on virtual reality or gaming can get hooked. With this novel, Daniel Burke has crafted a superb serial killer mystery but also a fascinating look at online gaming. In addition, it's a great glimpse of what happens behind the scenes to keep the computer-simulated worlds that entertain millions running smoothly. Savvy readers might be able to narrow down the list of suspects before the final chapters. Still, the author delivers a satisfying conclusion to a rollercoaster of a ride.