Virtual-reality war-games yarn--something like The Lawnmower Man meets Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game--with some intriguing wrinkles of its own, from the author of the paperback Infectress. When child warriors Trickster, Cat, Snake, Dreamer and their colleagues enter Battle Space, they fight increasingly complex wars against a variety of ever more powerful foes; otherwise, they interact only with one another and with System, and wonder whether they’re really only software. Trickster, though, begins to grasp that they’re inside a VR system and have real bodies somewhere, and dreams of being able to destroy System. What they don’t yet know is that they’re a part of Standing Whirlwind, a project set up by China in order to train them as VR soldiers for the imminent showdown with the world’s other superpower, Japan. As the war begins, a US warship wanders into the battle zone, while a huge typhoon obscures the progress of the fighting; helped by Iva, a project psychologist and actually Trickster’s mother, Trickster and the others gain control of System. Trickster sends VR copies, or doppelgÑngers, of himself to subvert the Japanese computer network; meanwhile, he locates and reoccupies his physical body. Soon, he and the others break out and defeat their Chinese masters, but still must deal with Japanese commandos and US marines. Finally, Trickster gambles on being able to stop the war before it escalates into a nuclear holocaust. An impressively developed scenario in a yarn that emphasizes both the reality of violence and its emotional consequences: affecting and effective.