Young Toronto author Munroe proves no less inventive with his third novel than he did with his others (Angry Young Spaceman, 2001; etc.) as he projects a future in which a global virtual reality corporation is winning the p.r. battle against those who prefer to live their lives the old way. In Vancouver in 2036, SELF (the name of the company) is massively promoting its thriving VR location, Frisco, where old and young can leave their “meat” behind and go to reinvent themselves in any way they choose—for a price. The cost is variable, with low-end trippers barraged with ads no matter what they do, but the unadvertised fact that the trip seems to be almost always one-way sets retired special ops agent Eileen into motion as she reactivates her superwoman suit to search for her missing clone “grandson.” She connects with a powerful underground organization trying to undermine SELF’s global takeover by figuring out what happens to the bodies of those who leave for Frisco, as does a young artist, Nicky, whose work in “biologicals,” the engineering of new creatures by genetic manipulation, makes her an ideal collaborator in the attempt to bring the long-vanished rainforest back to Vancouver.
The plot dynamics and imaginative leaps here are engaging, and the care Munroe takes in examining Frisco as a full-fledged, not unattractive phenomenon also marks this as a story to be taken seriously.