by George Foy
Alex Munn always wanted to be a playwright, but somewhere along the way he was coaxed into scripting television shows, most notably the crime-drama Cop Killer and the soap opera Pain in the Afternoon. With the invention of Virtix, a virtual reality program that will become the future of broadcasting, he signs onto the show Real Life, where viewers will be placed directly into the story and given the ability to alter the plot. Bored with the
But when the Fishman murders find their way into the real world, Alex Munn is the only suspect, raising the question of what happens when fiction becomes too real?
It’s an unlikely combination of sci-fi, crime and historical drama that works for the most part, but the conspiratorial explanation at the ending is rather lackluster and confusing. But, as Munn says about Real Life, the story is secondary to the surroundings, and these surroundings are rich and varied. Author Foy never passes up an opportunity to poke fun at pop culture—for instance, even in the future, the Fox Network is still stealing ideas from the other major networks—and he references modern culture relentlessly, from the Ramones and the Sex Pistols to Dracula and Melrose Place. Pointing them out to yourself is a guilty pleasure and half the fun, like finding Waldo on a crowded beach.
The characters are great as well, especially Stefan Zeng the punk rock hacker, and Cosmo the Rastafarian smuggler. The excerpts from the book-within-a-book, The Smuggler’s Bible, are so interesting that I’d like to strap on some VR goggles and try to find it on Amazon. It’s an extremely grim, gritty, funny and sometimes straight-up dirty little ditty that sci-fi and pop-culture junkies alike will enjoy. But read it soon, before the story becomes out of date, as is the eventual result of all technology-laden tales.