I recently finished reading “Arena Mode,” which was written by Blake Northcott. It is rare that I read fiction stories but this book sounded sort of similar to The Hunger Games so it got me curious. The story revolves around Matthew Moxon, who is an intelligent comic book enthusiast in 2041 America. He has a massive collection and his friend Gavin actually owns a comic book store. They hang out all day there and it is revealed that Matt has a crush on Gavin’s sister, Peyton. Yet he refuses to admit it for fear of ruining the relationship with Gavin. The beginning dialogue was very amusing for it included conversations about great comic books and the strongest superheroes.
As the story develops, we learn that Matt lives off the grid in a small New York apartment. We also learn that America’s middle class has disappeared and the rich have gotten richer and the poor struggle to survive. It is sort of a dystopian world and crime is rampant. In this society, however, it was discovered that superheroes actually do exist and live among us. There is some distrust for them and many that were athletes were cut from teams and tournaments. So even superheroes were having trouble to survive. Yet there was a new opportunity for these individuals to compete in a televised fight to the death. This new tournament was created by a former swordsman and powerful billionaire. The top three survivors of this tournament receive prize money and first place gets you a billion.
To enter into the tournament, one has to perform an amazing feat of their superhero strength. As Matt watches these videos online, he is amazed at these superheroes flying around with laser vision and super strong abilities. Matt is considering to enter the tournament despite not really having any abilities. He is motivated to try because he wants the money to pay for surgery to remove a large brain tumor. This is a risky undertaking because the possibility of defeating a superhuman with just your wits and brainpower seems impossible. His friends were supportive enough, however, that they begin to strategize ways to make it appear that he had a great superpower. But first, they sought funds from a local gang to purchase a state of the art superhero suit. Then, Gavin, unbeknownst to Matt, set up an armed robbery at a local store in which Matt would personally prevent. At the time of the robbery, Matt approached the gunmen and as he got closer, Gavin set off a charge on the getaway car. The gunmen scattered and all of it was captured on video.
That was enough for Matt to gain acceptance into the tournament. On the eve of the tournament, there was an opening ceremony of the 13 competitors, where they show their abilities. Some refused to, others showed off and some even got all political. The strongest competitor was called “Russia’s Son” and he could fly as well as shoot laser beams. He saw himself as Russia’s savior and was very cocky. Matt found an ally in Kenneth, who had the ability to conjure up any living form in which he could control. Before appearing on stage, Matt passed out from his tumor. He wasn’t disqualified but the media did not consider him as a strong competitor. After an intimate conversation with Peyton, he was inspired to compete for her and received an amulet to place under his suit.
Once the tournament began on the island of Manhattan, Matt was nervous and got off to a bad start when he busted his knee. His plan was to lay low but his location would be broadcast if he stays still too long. He witnessed an epic battle in which “Russia’s Son” lifted a competitor, who could increase his size, and dropped him into the river from the stratosphere. Yet Matt realized that Russia’s Son had a vulnerability in which he needed to rest in order to regain energy. He begins noticing weaknesses of other competitors. The super-fast sprinter had bad eyesight while others were easily manipulated. Matt eventually runs into his ally, who was quickly taken out.by a superhero in a robot suit. Without me spoiling too much of the tournament, Matt encounters some competitors and outsmarts them completely. He could defeat enemies with his wit and a little help from another ally. While fighting, he realizes that cheating was rampant for some seemed to be given the perfect weapon or received prior information. Once he figures out what is going on, he faces his final foe who isn’t what he appears. If you want to know what happened next you will need to pick up this intriguing book.
This book seemed like a healthy mix of The Hunger Games and X-Men. It makes you realize, however, that these supposed “Gods” are still quite human. They are not immortal and some of their weaknesses are rooted in human nature. Some are cocky and others react on impulse, which were qualities that led to their downfall. One thing that is important to gather from this story is to never underestimate the power of the human mind. Despite Matthew not having any abilities, he survived through most of the tournament because he had a plan, paid careful attention to the competition and could easily talk himself out of tough situations. His wit and brain power proved to be the most powerful ability in the entire tournament.
My Rating: 10/10