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J. M. Snyder
James doesn’t have a very exciting life. He plods through his days in the office and lives for the three nights a week he spends at the VR Palace. Although he hasn’t been very lucky in love in his real life, his virtual love life is rich and exciting, because James has created a companion who meets his every need. He feels what James wants, thinks what he wants, acts the way he wants. He is the perfect lover.
In the VR Palace, sex is just sex: there are no commitments, no confrontations, no messy words of love. All you have to do is suit up, plug in, and switch on, and all your fantasies become virtual reality. James tells himself that this is what he wants. This is what makes him happy.
When James’s lover begins to express opinions, ideas and preferences of his own, James gets a little worried. Is there a virus in the computer, or is this behavior the manifestation of desires he doesn’t even know about? As time passes, his lover becomes more and more … real. But that’s impossible, because he is just a computer program. Or is he? Suddenly what started off as a game doesn’t feel like a game anymore, and what began as a fantasy comes closer to being reality.
J.M. Snyder’s VR Palace is a science fiction novella that delves into the world of virtual reality and examines the point where reality and fantasy intersect. As we read this story, we wonder: is it possible to become so involved in a fantasy that it becomes actuality?
The point of view of this novella is unique and fascinating, because it is written in the second person singular. The main character, whose name is not really James but who is actually never formally introduced to the reader, is referred to as “you.” This places the reader squarely in the shoes of the main character, and as the action unfolds, it happens to the reader and the main character simultaneously, almost like a role-playing computer game. I don’t think that I have ever read a story written this way, and I have to admit that I enjoyed it very much.
Since we can only see through the eyes of the main character, our view of the action is somewhat tainted. We are as confused as he is about what is happening with his virtual reality computer program. Is reality shifting, or is there really a bug in the machine? The end of the story is left wonderfully up in the air with no real answers in sight. We’re not sure what is happening. Is this a happy ending, or is it a nightmare of technology gone horribly wrong? It is this very uncertainty that makes VR Palace a distinctive and enjoyable read.
Reviewed by: Whitney