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Larry Niven & Steven Barnes - Dream Park - The Voodoo Game (Pan)

ISBN 0-330-32055-6.

First published 1991. Possibly later published as The California Voodoo Game.

This is the third in the Dream Park series. I haven't read the first two; but this novel works well on its own.

Dream Park run virtual reality rôle-playing games; the most successful Gamers are world-famous, thanks to public broadcasts of the lavishly computer-enhanced Games. The Voodoo Game is the most ambitious yet, played out not in the custom-built gaming areas of Dream Park itself, but in a huge abandoned housing project, damaged in the massive earthquake that hit California some years previously.

The story progresses on a number of levels. The Gamers work towards successfully completing the Game, using their real physical skills as well as their imaginary special powers. However, the alliances formed in the world of the Game conflict with relationships formed outside, and it's soon clear that somebody isn't playing fair. The technicians overseeing the Game realise that they must act soon to save Dream Park's investment; but if the virtual reality of the Game is interrupted, the company's image will be irredeemably damaged.

The different levels of the book are carefully researched (a list of references is given in the Afterword) and could almost be read as independent stories. Good book; read it.

10 April 1998

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