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Michelle

Could Virtual Reality the next 'big thing' in YA fiction?

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There's an article here http://io9.com/why-maze-runners-james-dashner-abandoned-dystopia-for-1442116599 about James Dashner's new book, The Eye of Minds.

 

 

The Eye of Minds is a pretty edgy YA book — it starts with a kid committing suicide in virtual reality (hacking her own neural interface so the death will be permanent in the real world, too) and just keeps twisting the knife.

In Dashner's near-future setting, there are super-popular VR games, which include full sensory immersion — but an evil hacker named Kaine has come up with a way to trap people in the VR world, so they can never wake up, and they eventually become brain dead in reality. The only way out... is to kill yourself.

So a young gamer named Michael gets recruited by the VR cops on a special mission: Track down Kaine and find out his secrets. To reach Kaine, Michael and his friends have to go through a bunch of tests and deathtraps, with increasing levels of horror and insanity.

The good news is, Dashner takes full advantage of the Matrix-esque potential for asking "what is real," and the weird paranoia of this novel is pretty infectious.

Dashner says he's been influenced by The Matrix and Inception, and that he wants to see science fiction taking a leap in YA fiction.

 

VR has been looked at before.. I enjoyed Stray by Monica Hesse, where children from a troublesome background live their childhood in a virtual world, experiencing what is thought to be the perfect upbringing. It's also in the latest book from Patrick Ness.

 

So could VR be the next big thing, taking over from dystopia? Or is it science fiction in general? Katya's World by Jonathan L Howard is a favourite of mine, and the publishers Strange Chemistry have another excellent sounding science fiction book coming, The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard.

 

YA readers, do you enjoy science fiction, and would you be interested in more? And how about VR, how does that grab you?

YA authors, is it much different writing science fiction for teens, and do you think there's more to come?

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I like some of the old-fashioned Sci-fi, but most modern stuff is nothing for me.

For the most part the problem is, that authors often have very little idea how the stuff actually works, but still want to work off of existing devices and technology, instead of just imagining up something original and unique. That just breaks my immersion, since I work in the field, and have a decent idea when someone knows what he's writing about and when he's just throwing in random words he does not understand.

 

I can't imagine that it would be better with VR. I think most teens would spot such shoddy writing equally fast as I do. Most are pretty tech-savvy, which would be why computers are such a popular theme.

 

But, if an author has an idea what he's talking about, and bothers to do thorough research, the theme can be a lot of fun and very versatile. 

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Funny thing about virtual reality, despite it being a technology that still doesn't exist in quite the way we'd like, and with augmented reality making all the running at the moment, VR feels curiously old-fashioned. It's a sort of "past-future," like silver jumpsuits and personal jetpacks. I, and I would think many others, find the mention of VR makes them think of mirrorshades, sharp suits, governance by megacorporations, street samurai, freely available firearms, and creative uses for monofilament wire. Yes, William Gibson, we're looking at you. It's all very 'eighties. But... I stand by my belief that the 'eighties was the future, and we fumbled it.  

 

Whether real VR will ever happen like it did it the great heyday of cyberpunk is a difficult question. The thought of people jacking into the matrix with a lead coming out of their skull and ending in something like a 0.5 inch jack plug seems rather quaint now. Some form of Bluetooth, surely? On the other hand, the onward march of corporate power is still happening, although rather more insidiously than Neuromancer or the original "Robocop" might have expected. Then again, both are fables, and both are set in times when corporate domination is already a fait accompli

 

I'm trying to recall what the earliest VR in fiction is that I've come across. There's a lovely bit in the Doctor Who story, "The Deadly Assassin" (1976) where the Doctor's consciousness goes looking for answers in the Matrix (yes, it's called that), a massive database of Time Lord knowledge. Earlier still, there's a long lost episode of the BBC's Out of the Unknown in which a man's consciousness interfaces with that of a coma victim in an attempt to wake him. A bit of research reveals it was "Get Off My Cloud," based on a Peter Phillips short story. That was transmitted in 1969, the same year as the other earliest example I can think of, and which uses an electronically created VR rather than the biological one of "Get Off My Cloud." That's Ben Bova's The Duelling Machine. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are even earlier examples. 

 

So, yes, virtual reality. Conceptually, it's been around a good while. I do have plans to use something like it in a future project, albeit for a very specific function rather than a general purpose matrix. That said, if there's to be a "next big thing," I'd prefer it to be something broad like SF and not something as specific as VR. The whole "High school vampires" thing became self-parody very quickly because it was too small a sandpit, rather messing up vampires as useful characters for a while. I'd hate to see the same thing happen to VR as a concept, especially as it's been through that once already. 

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I read something with seemingly, almost exactly the same plot as The Eye Of Minds,  it is Future Freaks by Sheila Reading, also a YA book I bought on kindle.

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Tad Williams has a series called Otherworld.  Most of it is spent in virtual reality and that's where these friends met each other having never met in real life.  One even dies (degenerative illness) but manages to live on because of his virtual self.  I read some of the books but not all it was too much.  There's references of other books even Lord Of the Rings because the virtual world is what the friends make it and they've been influenced by books and movies.

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Otherland-City-Golden-Shadow-Bk/dp/1857236041/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381258455&sr=1-1&keywords=tad+williams+otherland

 

 

 

In our own near future, a global conspiracy at the highest levels threatens
to sacrifice our Earth for the promise of a far more exclusive place -
Otherland, a universe where any fantasy can be made real, but which is ruled by
Earth's wealthiest and most ruthless power brokers, the Grail Brotherhood.


 

Otherland, surrounded by secrecy, it is home to the wildest dreams and
darkest nightmares. Incredible amounts of money have been lavished on it. The
best minds of two generations have laboured to build it. And somehow, bit by
bit, it is claiming the Earth's most valuable resource - its children.


 

Only a few have become aware of the danger. Fewer still are willing or able
to take up the challenge of this perilous and seductive realm. But every age has
its heroes; unusual times call for unusual champions and destiny awaits them in
Otherland.

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 It  wasn't bad. And very much a YA book.

Ooh, I hope a big author hasn't ripped off someone else's book?! Was it any good?

It also starts off with a kid dying in a game and somebody else able to control the paramaters inside the game world. The concept I liked about was that it was set slightly in the future where kids had circuitry wired into their brains so they could be connected online 24/7

Edited by vodkafan

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I love the Otherworld series, such a big, epic story. I didn't seem like YA to me to be honest, the book shop I bought the Dutch books from from classified it as adult (I own it in both Dutch and English).

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It's not quite virtual reality, but my Soul Beach trilogy books are based in an online world which the heroine experiences as real - the idea of the book is a kind of Facebook for the dead, where the living can visit, but the dead can't leave... it's a thriller, rather than sci-fi, though. I did want to explore the boundaries between the real world and the virtual one, and how seductive online worlds can be.

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I love the Otherworld series, such a big, epic story. I didn't seem like YA to me to be honest, the book shop I bought the Dutch books from from classified it as adult (I own it in both Dutch and English).

Yeah its more adult.  I discovered it in the Library and there're no copies of it in the teen section.

Edited by Kreader

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And here's another one, just announced, to be published later in 2014
http://teriterry.jimdo.com/2013/10/12/it-s-a-deal-for-my-next-book-game-of-the-few/

 

 

Game of the Few

 

Luna is a no-hoper with a secret: in a world of illusion, she can see what is real. But can she see the truth before it is too late? 
 
Luna has always been able to exist in virtual and real worlds at the same time, a secret she is warned to keep. She hides her ability by being a Refuser: excluded by choice from the virtual spheres others inhabit. But when she is singled out for testing, she can’t hide any longer. 
 
The safest thing to do would be to fail, to go back to a dead-end life, no future. But Luna is starting to hope for something better, and hope is a dangerous thing...

 

I've really enjoyed Teri Terry's writing so far, so I'll be looking forward to this one.

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