September 08, 2022

Gemma Amor: "Full Immersion" (ARC Review)

Title: Full Immersion [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Gemma Amor [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Horror
Year: 2022
Age: 18+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unusual, imaginative blend of real-life issues and sci-fi/horror. The visuals jump off the page.
Cons: The dialogue feels a bit contrived at times. A couple of alleged reveals are easy to figure out in advance (though maybe not early on).
WARNING! (TW list provided by the author): Suicidal idealisation. Post-natal depression. Implied acts of violence towards a child. Birth scene. (More): Graphic gore. Bodily fluids.
Will appeal to: Readers who like speculative fiction rooted in real-life scenarios. Mothers who have struggled with post-natal depression and intrusive thoughts. Family members who have witnessed such situations.

Blurb: 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. (Goodreads)

Review:  First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to Angry Robot for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.


Full Immersion is one of the most unique novels I've ever read. It takes an unflinching look at the still taboo issue of post-partum depression, and it does so through the lens of an imaginative (if far-out) virtual-reality setting where horror and beauty go hand in hand, and whose effects on the real world are...deliciously disturbing (what can I say, I like my stuff dark ๐Ÿ˜‚). After a few suicide attempts, the main character Magpie enrolls in an experimental VR program that should be able to get to the root of her suppressed trauma and - hopefully - force her to confront and overcome it. But the carefully curated scenario (which starts with the protagonist's discovery of her own dead body) soon gets a makeover, while Magpie and the mysterious friend she met at her death site take unaccounted-for routes (some of them in order to escape the ominous Silhouette) and the program begins to infiltrate reality...quite literally. [...]


I won't lie - there are scenes in here that throw a mean punch, as they're supposed to do (and I'm not talking about the horror per se, though that's, let's say, closely related/linked to the issue at hand). But there are other ones that, while being less in your face, are no less daring - and illuminating - when it comes to the discourse about marriage, motherhood, freedom, and depression. In her foreword, Amor is very honest about this book having been birthed (ha!) from her own, painful experience of post-natal depression, and the story doesn't shun going to very dark places, or places whose existence society often tries to negate, perpetuating the myth of motherhood as a role that just slots into place after you have a baby - and one that is supposed to change your perception of yourself and redefine your values.  


Now for the things I was less keen on...most of the story is made up by dialogue (between Magpie and her mysterious friend, and between the two scientist who are watching over her while she's undergoing the procedure), and part of it felt a little too...I don't know...stiff? staged? Also, it was pretty obvious to me who Magpie's "friend" in the simulation was, though not from the start - and that was another reason for me to feel like there was something off with the dialogue, because I can hardly imagine him talking like that, and not in that context anyway (I can't be more explicit than this because well...spoilers๐Ÿคท‍♀️). Anyhow, because of that, my finger hovered between 3.5 and 4 stars for a while, but in the end I reasoned that the uniqueness and importance of this story more than made up for those aspects, so I decided to err on the side of generosity, so to speak. Also, that foreword was SPECTACULAR. Even if you've never had a baby, you only need to be a woman (or to identify as such) to feel as if you've been punched in the gut. Some things needs to be said out loud...especially now. Thank you Gemma Amor for that.

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  1. Discovering one's own dead body would certainly be freaky! And multiple realities... ha ha you know how I am with those. And of COURSE something goes wrong! I like books though too that make you think, even if it's an uncomfortable think.

    "slots into place". Right?

    I like it too when an author clearly has a stake in the story, it can make the impact so powerful. I felt that way about the echo Wife when I read the author's note.

    1. Haha, ditto the dead body, and yes, I know you and multiple realities are close friends (same here! I'm crazy for those - whether they're different instances of the same reality or different worlds from the one we live in, but especially the first one).

      I think books like this can do a world of good because where a memoir would be regarded as boring by some/reach less people (especially if written by someone who's not really famous), a speculative novel is a great way to pass a message.
      I haven't read The Echo Wife, but gah - after reading the blurb, I think I have an idea what the author's note for that one would say...

    2. Exactly!

      And yes exactly that! Plus spec fic is just weird/ out there enough to get you thinking... and if they're making you think of something relevant to real life, so much the better! :)

      Oh my gosh I would love to know what you think of The Echo Wife. I had a whole page of things I wanted to talk about with that book ha

    3. Ditto!

      I think I'll pass on TEW because marital issues are one of the things that I don't enjoy reading about. Sorry we can't dissect that one together ๐Ÿ˜‰.

    4. Not a problem! It can be a tough read. :)

  2. I'm really looking forward to this! I never had post partum depression myself, but boy motherhood is not for the faint of heart๐Ÿ˜ฌ

    1. Not to mention, there are still so many myths about motherhood that need debunking.

  3. The most potent stories do usually come from experience, and the focus on postpartum depression is an important one. Always good to bring those stigmatized things into focus.

    1. For a horror/sci-fi book, Full Immersion does strike a cord like a contemporary would.


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