REEL (French for REAL) is a Science Fiction novel that was self-published in 2015 by Sophie Renaudin, author of the Science Fantasy series Les Enfants de Prométhée. It takes place 20 Minutes into the Future, in a society inspired by the Venus Project, where, thanks to the progress of technology and an efficient way of sharing resources, work is no longer mandatory. Everyone has an access to education, communication and entertainment thanks to The Metaverse, REAL, where every person on Earth has an individual account since birth. However, only a select few choose to do the jobs that machines can't handle. (Such as art and psychiatry.)
In spite of his mother's insistence that he gets a job, Neru would much rather spend all his time on REAL playing video games, which he excels at. In The Metaverse, he meets the mysterious Likaï, whom he admires from afar and develops feelings for.
Everything changes when Neru's latest victory wins him a place in an exceptional online tournament: other people envy his chance to participate, and Neru's naivety might cost him everything.
This work provides examples of:
- The Ace: Sasha, the only person Neru admires aside from Likaï, is introduced as one of the best video gamers in The Metaverse. He lives up to his reputation by getting a perfect score on the Future Tournament.
- Always Someone Better: In spite of Neru's Game-Breaker abilities as Likaï's sentient partner, they still struggle through the Future Tournament due to Likaï's inexperience as a player, while Sasha gets a perfect score fair and square, crushing Likaï's hopes of winning the AI. Remember, kids: cheating doesn't beat real talent.
- Ambiguous Gender: Likaï changes the appearance and gender of their avatar constantly. Neru refers to them as a 'he' or a 'she' depending on the current gender of their avatar. This behavior is common online, but Neru is too embarrassed to ask directly about someone's gender, in spite of his friends' claims that people do it all the time.
- Becoming the Mask: Likaï befriends Neru to steal his account, and Neru, in turn, joins the tournament as Likaï's partner in order to sabotage their game, but instead the two of them develop a genuine bond of trust as they play together.
- Betty and Veronica: Initially appears to be the case between Neru's teammate Betti (Betty) and Likaï (Veronica), as the former openly hits on Neru, who is oblivious and feels drawn to Likaï. It gets subverted very quickly: Likaï betrays Neru's trust, and it turns out that Betti was only after the glory of being Neru's girlfriend after he joined the Pantheon - she dumps him as soon as his account gets stolen.
- The story moves on to a similar dynamic between Neru, Fasia (Betty) and Likaï (Veronica), who are both variations of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Neru only knows Likaï from The Metaverse and doesn't even know their gender, and Fasia is a complete stranger he meets in the real world who decides to help him out when no one else would. It is also subverted: the physical attraction Neru feels towards Fasia is merely that: physical. It doesn't last, and is one-sided from the get-go. In the end Neru fully embraces the fact that he was only ever interested romantically in Likaï, and the latter's Gender Reveal doesn't change anything.
- Cat Girl: Betti's avatar. Her cat ears flatten when she gets angry, making them a virtual mix of Animal-Eared Headband and Unusual Ears.
- Cool Old Guy: Den. He is a successful artist but still found the time to raise his granddaughter on his own.
- False Friend: Likaï, who steals Neru's account, and Neru's three teammates, who refuse to help and turn their back on him at the first sign of trouble. Likaï does grow to genuinely like Neru, though.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Neru.
- Loners Are Freaks: Neru hardly ever disconnects unless his mother tells him to. He is completely lost when he has to step outside in the real world and is very awkward towards Fasia.
- Fasia's parents are much worse: they are so addicted to REAL that they only disconnect to eat, bathe or get some sleep, and neglected their daughter so much that her grandfather had to step in and raise her himself.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Likaï at first, although there is a lot more to them than Neru suspects: Likaï is only trying to gain Neru's trust in order to steal his account and get into the tournament.
- The Metaverse: REAL.
- No Poverty
- Parental Abandonment: Fasia was raised by her grandfather. See the spoiler tag for Loners Are Freaks above.
- Promotion to Parent: Den, Fasia's grandfather.
- Utopia: As a result of No Poverty. The setting seems pretty much perfect. The people? Not so much.
- Was It All a Lie?: Neru's main motivation after his account gets stolen is to find out the thief's reason for betraying his trust.