7 March 2010

Review: VIRTUALLY DEAD, Peter May

ISBN 978-1-59058-708-9
Poisoned Pen Press 2010, I read an ARC on my Kindle courtesy of the publishers.

Michael Kapinsky is a crime scene photographer still grieving over the death of his first wife Mora 6 months before. His therapist suggest that he join her Second Life therapy sessions. Initially Michael does not think this sounds like something for him, but he agrees to give it a try. He downloads the Second Life (SL) software onto his computer, sets up his avatar, and then begins to explore.

He realises that one of the homicide victims he recently photographed had SL running on his computer.

In Real Life (RL) Mike is running into some financial problems. His late wife had been the source of the money and their Californian beachside house is mortgaged for several million dollars. The rest of the money is tied up in shares that he can't touch. It is beginning to look as if he will have to sell up, and even then will walk away with nothing.

Then all of Mike's problems appear to be solved when a huge amount of money, more than the mortgage, appears in his SL account. Mike decides to take it out to pay the mortgage. That's when his SL and RL lives cross over and he finds that he owes "the mob".

VIRTUALLY DEAD is a crime fiction thriller in which, among other themes, Peter May explores connections SL residents have with each other, and with their RLs. He raises some interesting issues including the ways in which people use SL to explore things such as sexuality in ways they can't in RL. He looks too at crime in SL, and how it is dealt with. Mike Karpinsky finds himself investigating deaths in RL that coincide with the death of the SL avatar. Mike's mortgage issue links to the possibility of using SL for money laundering and tax evasion in RL.

I'm not sure VIRTUALLY DEAD will appeal to readers who know nothing about Second Life, and I suspect that to appreciate the nuances of the story you may need to have spent some time there and understand some of the possibilities. I think it will be a novel that will appeal to a "Second Life" readership.

It is a very different book to the last Peter May title I reviewed, THE RUNNER, and despite a personal interest in exploring virtual worlds like Second Life, it was not nearly as engaging for me, for at least the first half of the book. Perhaps this was partly because along with the avatars the author took considerable delight in exploring the sexual world of SL. One aspect I did find interesting was that May ceased to specifically tell the reader which world, SL or RL, the action was taking place in, and you had to use other indicators such as what was happening, or the names of the avatars. I liked also his exploration of how much most SL residents know about their RL personalities. In my explorations of SL I have always known who the avatar had been created by, but I accept there will be times when you will never know.

My rating: 4.2

If you are interested in reading more about crime fiction set in Second Life you might like to read my posts about WICKER by Kevin Guilfoile.


Kay said...

I have this one on my radar and thought the concept sounded interesting. It will be a while before I get to it, but I appreciate your thought on it, Kerrie. I also want to read Peter May's China thriller books.

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