Friday, October 7, 2011

Dream Park by Larry Niven

Dream Park is a quick fun read for the sf/fantasy crowd. This aptly told tale is set in 2051, where holographic imaging has advanced to provide a full-immersion experience. Dream Park is a grown-up version of Disneyland, a gamer’s paradise that offers virtual vacations in fantastical and/or historical settings. Participants play characters like wizards, engineers, healers, or warriors, and go on adventures that can last a day or week, seeking glory, fame, and experience points.

Alex Griffin is Chief of Security for Dream Park, and when one of his security guards is murdered in the course of a theft from the R&D department during a high profile game, suspicion lands on the players. With public relations in mind, Griffin is sent into the game as a new character to do his detective work undercover. He’s an all-work-and-no-play kind of guy, so to be forced to play a game for days on end, with people he considers to be nerds, escapists, and fanatics, is a real challenge.

The game he’s thrown into is a South Seas adventure featuring cargo cults, a real historical phenomena in which primitive tribes coming into contact with more technologically advanced civilizations developed a strong belief that amazing material wealth could be obtained through magical ceremonies. The adventure also includes volcanoes, undead creatures, giant serpents, and an unexploded nuclear missile. Griffin’s surprised to find himself enjoying it, especially in the company of the beautiful Acacia, expert gamer extraordinaire—until he find that the murderer is someone he never would have expected.

Niven’s work has won Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards: this particular book was nominated for a Locus. If you’re looking for something simple and satisfying, with lots of action and a whodunit, Dream Park's for you.

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