4/5 (Adult only) An explosive, gritty military Sci-Fi
Ten Sigma is set in the near future and told from the point of view of Mary, a somewhat reserved and reticent individual who hides within herself a steely resolve and mental toughness. And she needs every ounce of it for Mary is dying from one of the few incurable cancers left in the world. She is offered the chance by a mysterious man of a new life but it would mean leaving everything of herself behind. Her life, her family and loved ones, even her memories. She resists until she is left no choice but to die or try, even though it means losing who she is.
Mary wakes up in a virtual world as Brin, a participant in the Ten Sigma program. To survive and reach the real world she will need to achieve the designation of ten sigmas by winning scenarios. Dying in a scenario means dying in the real, losing in the scenario means going back to zero. Winning means advancing your score. To reach ten sigma she will need to win countless scenarios back to back. The only problem is, the scenarios are packed with other virtual people all trying to achieve the same thing. Her death or defeat.
Ten Sigma however is more than that simple premise. There is something else going on and Brin is determined to find out what. Determined to keep her memories and determined to rejoin the real world and reunite with her family. But, is she willing to pay the price?
The story is wonderfully told and evocatively written. It is an action-packed military romp from the moment Mary/Brin arrives in the ten sigma program until its vicious, bloody conclusion. It is psychologically bruising and physically brutal in the extreme and A.W. Wang doesn’t pull any literary punches.
There is a passing nod to the Matrix with a genuine ‘I know Kungfu’ moment in it and set similarly in a virtual world where there are consequences for every action. There is also a hint of Hunger Games to it as well with its deathmatch style competition but it is neither of those two stories and stands on its own metaphorical legs.
There were a few niggles, and I mean a few. The biggest hole in the story for me was why? Why the ten sigma program? Why was the win condition so draconian and impossible? Its goal was identified but I never really understood the purpose of it. It created a slight disconnect for me because of the sheer attrition rate and the mathematical impossibility of any participant ever reaching ten sigmas, which, as conveyed in the story meant that no one could reach the end, could they?
There were also a few scenes where I got dragged out of the story because I just could not believe how they unfolded. I was like, ‘Really. That really happened?’ Then I kept right on reading, shelving my disbelief and incredulity and going with the story.
I am not normally that charitable but see, I know something….I know a great storyteller when I read one because it never feels to me like I am reading pages and I believe A W Wang can tell a story. His descriptive narrative is not formulaic or over garnished. It conveys enough to sketch a picture and colour it in whilst leaving plenty that my imagination got drawn in.
There is one other massive, glaring error (he says, tongue-in-cheek). This is not a military adventure. It is a military survival story.
Overall, thoroughly enjoyable. If you love military sci-fi with epic combat then do yourself a favour and pick up a copy.