The latest novel by Edgington (Immortal, 2016) features a rogue artificial intelligence and a virtual reality world holding 12 billion trapped souls.
In a bid for immortality, humanity creates a virtual reality world called Elisium and downloads billions of people into it as digitized versions of themselves. Elisium is managed by an AI called Sibyl, who has been given complete control by the human programmers. Unfortunately, as Elysium’s population grows and power consumption spikes, Sibyl begins redefining what she considers acceptable and reconditioning or deleting people who don’t meet that standard. Ekko Everlasting is downloaded into Elisium, his memory wiped to avoid being flagged a dissident, with the task of tracking down the real-world location of Sibyl’s computer core so that she can be killed or reprogrammed. Ekko enters the No-Life tournament, a competition in which failure results in the actual death of the losers, so that he can get close to Elisium’s elite. After a few initial wins, he qualifies to enroll in The Test—the biggest and most mysterious tournament Elisium has ever seen. Along the way, he meets fellow player Sylirin Yukionna and becomes determined to save her, despite the risks. The story is sprinkled with decision points in the style of the Choose Your Own Adventure series, in which the reader can select which action Ekko takes. Unfortunately, this mechanism doesn’t work very well in an e-book, where it’s more difficult to flip around to different sections, which is probably why Edgington uses a very limited version in which the wrong decision leads to instant death. The plot seems a bit contrived (is it really plausible that the humans don’t know the location of a computer holding 12 billion people?), but the persistent reader will be rewarded with a terrific surprise ending.
Lots of sci-fi twists and turns, some more believable than others, lead to a galvanizing finish.