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A traumatised woman with amnesia finds her own dead body and sets out to uncover the truth of her demise in a race against time, sanity, crumbling realities and the ever-present threat of the Silhouette.
When Magpie discovers her own dead body one misty morning in Bristol, it prompts her to uncover the truth of her untimely demise. Her investigations take her on a terrifying journey through multiple realities, experimental treatments, technological innovations and half-memories in a race against time and sanity. Accompanied by a new friend who is both familiar and strange, and constantly on the run from the terrifying, relentless presence of the mysterious predator known only as Silhouette, Magpie must piece together the parts of her life previously hidden. In doing so, she will discover the truth about her past, her potential, and her future.
Psychology is one of the youngest social sciences, and there are times when people are still testing new techniques to try to get a result from their patients. This trial and error throughout the history of psychology has caused some normal practices in the past to be viewed as unethical and/or cruel in hindsight, but the excuse is that some experiments go too long or too far because the data is needed. Data is needed to help future patients. This is the case in Full Immersion, the newest novel from Gemma Amor. The main character, Magpie, writes to the Department of Virtual and Experimental Therapy at the University of Bristol, to volunteer for their experimental therapy, simply because she thinks about jumping off the Bristol suspension bridge every day.
The story that follows is filled with mystery, sci-fi, and some horror, most of it because the therapeutic techniques that starts the beginning go beyond the data that had been previously gathered. This turns Maggie’s session into an experiment. The further Magpie gets into the virtual world, the more the lines between the imaginary and reality blurs until they become nonexistent. This is when the ethics of do we stop because it is dangerous or do we keep going because it is beyond the previously gathered data.
The way that this story is constructed makes everyone’s complete focus on Magpie, the patient, really the only person who’s health is monitored. The only other characters are the therapist helping Magpie and the two technicians, Evan and his female boss, both on the outside but who are also supposed to be in control. With Magpie being the main focus of everyone else, and the setting being solely in the virtual world and the basement at a university, there is a tension that this claustrophobic situation naturally presents. By the end we do not know if we are trapped with Magpie or trapped with Evans and the Boss. We just know we are trapped, and like all of the characters, all we can do is hope for the best. This is the best kind of horror, one where you are led to believe that there is no way for anyone to get out.
There is someone out there that might be helped by this novel, someone who has been struggling with the same problems as Magpie. Someone might get help after reading this because the biggest takeaway from Full Immersion is that we are not alone. We may feel alone, but we are not alone. There are people who are struggling and that there are people that can help. The potential importance of this book in someone’s life far outweighs what anyone thinks about the plot, the characters, or the ending. I can say that I liked the story and the characters. I can say that the writing is great, and the story unfolds in a way that are interesting and exciting. I can say that it’s a good sci-fi and horror novel. None of these things compare to how Full Immersion can be a help for someone who is going through the same situation that Gemma Amor found herself in after the birth of her child.
It is no secret that Gemma Amor wrote this novel for herself when she was struggling with her own postpartum depression. (There is a good two part interview with her on This is Horror). She says that she did not plan to get this novel published, but when Angry Robot approached her, she decided to give them this. She is also happy with the way that Angry Robot has taken a book with extremely sensitive subject matter and made it into a novel that honors and respects the subject. In all of the advertising and marketing for this book, respect and empathy has been shown toward the books difficult themes. It is like it is an honest conversation and not exploitative. I have been reading and collecting Angry Robot books since I saw the original cover of Edge by Thomas Blackthorne in 2010, and I am happy that they have published Full Immersion.
I received this as an ARC through NetGalley. I also received a physical ARC from Angry Robot. Both of these were given in exchange for an honest review.