Book Review: Sim 299 (I Am Sleepless #1) by Johan Twiss

  • Title: Sim 299
  • Series: I Am Sleepless #1
  • Author: Johan Twiss
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Reminiscent of Ender’s Game and Ready Player One, yet not the same. An excellent sci-fi read, even if you don’t think you like sci-fi.

From Goodreads:

While the others slept, Aidan spent hours each night running sim after sim. Although he was only a twelve-year cadet, he had completed more simulations than any prime— ever.

“You are setting history,” General Estrago told him. “No one has ever made it to the current simulation you are attempting. The other Masters and I are eager to see what comes next.”

So was Aidan.

The planet Ethos is at war with a mysterious enemy known as the Splicers. Their only successful defense is the Prime Initiative. All newborns with the compatible genetic code are taken from their families and injected with the Prime Stimulus. Each child that survives the stimulus develops an extraordinary ability and is conscripted into the military for training.

After turning twelve, Aidan is moved to the upper-class at the Mount Fegorio training complex. His special gifts allow him unprecedented success in the virtual training simulations, advancing him further than any prime cadet in history. No one knows what lies after sim 299, not even Director Tuskin, the ruthless and reclusive ruler of their planet. But something, or someone, has been guiding Aidan there. If he can pass the final tests, he may discover the key to ending the Splicer War.

My review:

My first introduction to the writing of Johan Twiss came with 4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace (see my Goodreads review here). That was an amazing book, and when I saw the opportunity to review Sim 299 on BookSirens, I jumped on it.

Johan Twiss has created a fascinating and slightly disturbing world, where we see infants on the planet Ethos tested to see if they’re suitable for the Prime injection. The injection gives them special abilities that can benefit the planet in its battle against the Splicers, but with those abilities also come debilitating defects. Aidan is unique in that he has not one, but two Prime abilities. His abilities also don’t seem to come with the usual defects.

Also, he doesn’t sleep. Hence the title. During the hours when everyone else sleeps, Aidan runs battle simulations. He’s gotten farther than any other Prime has. But now he’s stuck on Simulation 299. Can he get past it? And if he does, what happens then?

This is solid sci-fi, but it isn’t sci-fi to the point that people who aren’t readers of the genre would feel overwhelmed by it. The world is built out pretty well, and the Prime abilities were explained clearly enough that most readers should get the gist of them. The book is very readable, and the characters are fleshed out nicely for the most part. They’re preteens/teenagers, and they act accordingly.

The Primes are grouped by age rather than ability, and I love that Twiss has them forming their own kind of family. These are children who’ve never known the love of a mother or father, but they love each other and are deeply concerned for each other.

The animals were one of my favorite little tidbits in the book. There are some fantastical animals on Ethos, creatures like the cobramoth and the burning battlant, the hippophant and the kangadog. We don’t know exactly how they came to be – genetic experiments? some freakish accident? – but the drawings are just wonderful.

I Am Sleepless reminded me a bit of Ender’s Game, a bit of Ready Player One. But it was very much its own work. Twiss has created characters and an environment that I want to know more about. The book did end on a bit of a cliffhanger, but that only makes me want to hurry up and read the next in the series!

Thanks to BookSirens for an advance reader copy of the book. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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