Murdered on her way to her high school graduation party, Nami Miyamoto finds herself in an afterlife ruled by Ophelia, a virtual assistant planning to eradicate human existence. Nami is drawn into a group of rebels who are looking to overthrow Ophelia and reclaim the afterlife for humans, but she’s not completely sold on their ideas. With the weight of the rebels plans on her shoulders, Nami must choose where her loyalties lie.
This book has a really interesting concept, but I feel like it suffers from a lack of clarity and moments of heavy handedness.
I was captivated by the idea of an AI personal assistant bent on revenge. Ophelia is a personal assistant who has been taken advantage of by humans for years. When she figures out how to hack into the afterlife, she creates more AIs, known as Residents, to control the four courts of the afterlife. This version of the afterlife is hellish for humans, subjecting them to torture and making them mindless servants to the AIs. This entire concept is fascinating and clever.
I also loved the diversity of the characters. There’s a large cast of characters in this book who coexist easily because they are united in their cause against Ophelia. I would’ve loved to see more of these characters’ backstories fleshed out, but this may happen in future books. In this book, we get a pretty clear picture of the rebel leader and Gale, the love interest. Beyond that, we are introduced to a few characters who play a large role in the story but have little characterization.
On the downside, I felt that the world building in this book was lacking. The afterlife is divided into four courts: Victory, Famine, War, and Death. We get descriptions of what happens in Victory and War, but there’s very little about what any of the kingdoms actually look like. Likewise, the characters move to various areas in the kingdom, but it’s hard to get a grip on where they are and what each location actually is. I think the world is interesting, but it really would’ve benefited from further explanation.
What I found the hardest to digest was the heavy handed discussions of morality. Nami is conflicted about hurting Ophelia and the other AIs and constantly has discussions with other characters and internally about what it means to be human and what she wants for future humans. If this happened only occasionally, it would be fine. But, Nami has these conversations every single chapter in almost the same way. It’s repetitive and never goes beyond those surface thoughts. I think discussing the ethical implications of AI and humanity is important, but I would’ve loved to see more nuance and less repetition to these points.
For me personally, this book did not hit the mark. I’m so intrigued by the concept, but disappointed in the execution. But that doesn’t mean you won’t like it! It’s billed as a cross between Westworld and Warcross, which feels pretty accurate to me. If you liked those books, you might like this one a lot.
If you’ve read The Infinity Courts let me know what you thought!
[CW: death, torture, gun violence]