A millennium from now, a shy, insecure data security analyst enters a highly realistic simulation hoping to safely explore romance—but a computer virus threatens her virtual world.
Gillian Lawrence, junior security analyst, likes to avoid recognition—a survival habit she learned growing up. Loneliness is the price of her invisibility. After working on DiViRGen—the “most advanced prototype of human/cyber-interaction ever developed”—she comes up with a bold plan: secretly use the system to go on a romantic adventure that will allow her to confront her fears about other people and relationships. To her surprise, the system assigns Joshua, a security AI avatar, to guide her in the virtual game world, which is based on a deliberately anachronistic mix of elements from Europe’s preindustrial past. Gillian will pose as Joshua’s wealthy ward, and he’ll help her become established in society and meet suitable young men—although it soon becomes evident that handsome and kind Joshua is eminently suitable himself. But when DiViRGen is sabotaged, Gillian’s virtual reality comes under attack. As the book ends, Dr. Leonard Afton, head of the VR project, learns of Gillian’s plight and prepares to enter the simulation. Noble (Realizing Intentions [A Virtual Reality Book 2], 2015) offers an intriguing premise and an appealing heroine. Gillian’s carefully prepared plan makes sense and reveals her intelligence, enterprise, and courage. She’s thoughtful and logical as well as affectionate and lonesome. Noble’s worldbuilding is well-laid—unfortunately, science labs are still sexist in the next millennium—and she cleverly sets up expectations for fluffy VR romance with plenty of wish-fulfillment, such as pampering, ball gowns, and sex. Readers do get that, and it’s fun, but Noble subverts these expectations when Gillian’s romantic fantasy becomes a fight for survival, which ties back to her deepest fears. With so much to like, it’s disappointing to see the book end on a cliffhanger with little resolved.
A wonderful beginning that whets the reader’s appetite but breaks off a little too soon.