A quasi-sequel to Besher’s flavorsome cyber-reality Rim (1994), with a somewhat different backdrop but some of the characters in common. Year 2036: The German Fourth Reich’s ReichsNet has recently gobbled up PolskayaNet; and in Russia under Tsar Nicholas III, spook/scientist Count Viktor Trobolsky has developed the mind-controlling Mir virus, which processes consciousness as programmable software. The Count comes to Paris to betray his Tsar and sell the virus, but there are so many sinister shadows--agents, terrorists, gangsters--slinking about that the exchange goes wrong. Viktor is assassinated but Mir escapes, bonding to a sentient tattoo sported by American Nelly Anderson, girlfriend of Trevor Gobi (son of Frank, the previous book’s hero). Appalled, Trevor and Nelly flee back to the US, all the while pursued by Russian mafiya operative Boris and a whole bunch of the sentient tattoos--artificial intelligences, they can operate in reality or VR and can even leave the body they’re attached to--who’ve formed a conspiracy. Later, Nelly and Trevor break up, but the Mir virus develops a symbiosis with the tattoo, and. . . . Well, here believability plummets as complications redouble. The upshot is that Mir is actually an extraterrestrial, re-creating the Earth as VR on behalf of its alien designers. Like Rim, snappy, waggish, and ingenious--at first. But with little structure or plot, it subsides into mere VR froth.