This virtual reality scifi novella is yet another example of Hugh Howey’s mastery of art of the slow reveal. Adam Griffey’s world of the near future contains an almost limitless number of artificial worlds, supported by fields of server farms, in which software citizens are self-aware. Scientists set up teams of software scientists to find cures for cancer, or create new worlds to study planet formation. Entire software civilizations rise and fall, so that Adam’s world reaps the benefits.

Adam is bored with his job, his online girlfriend, his real life. Instead, he prowls virtual worlds at night, searching for the next Shakespeare. He memorizes novels written by virtual people, page by page, and brings them back to his own world. He is a plagiarist. As he spends more and more time hooked in, Adam’s virtual life starts to mean more to him than his own.

I have been continuously impressed by Howey’s effective storytelling of simple concepts with tangible characters, especially in such short formats. Adam’s escapist mentality is easy to relate to in our world of ever-increasing entertainment, mass consumerism, and informational overload. When the virtual worlds create more and more virtual worlds of their own, the servers in the real world are pushed to their limit, and some programs are slated for deletion.

A quick read recommended for all fans of scifi, particularly those interested in consciousness, the nature of reality, and haiku.

All his life, he’d wanted to be a writer, but was too good at reading and did too much of it.