Virtual reality has been identified as one of the most exciting and fastest-growing technologies in the contemporary world and one with the highest potential for growth. Virtual reality is a common theme in science fiction.
The Science Fiction Encyclopedia defines virtual reality as “any secondary reality alternate to the character’s world of real experience in which the character finds himself or herself, and with which he or she can interact.” Such a concept is present in the following sci-fi novels that tackle virtual reality:
Ready Player One (2011)by Ernest Cline. The story takes place in 2044, in a world beset by an energy crisis, global warming, and socioeconomic problems. People find escape from the grim reality through a virtual reality universe called OASIS. When its creator passes away, he leaves behind a will that promises immense fortune and power to the first person who’ll find an Easter egg that’s hidden somewhere in the OASIS. When teenager Wade Watts stumbles upon the first clue, he becomes a target by other OASIS players who’re willing to kill to win. Wade has to survive in order to win.
The Stranger: The Genesis Project Series Part One (2017) by Greg Van Arsdale. Formerly titled Shadows of Creation, The Strangers is a sci-fi thriller about John Neumann, a man with a memory loss who runs from a squad of an armed militia that wants him dead, led by Jack Logan. John holds a secret that could save countless lives from a doomsday virus and end Logan’s tyrannical rule. The novel, which is the first in the series of four books, makes a great Netflix adaptation.
Warcross (2017) by Marie Lu. The sci-fi adventure novel focuses on teenage hacker Emika Chen who, after losing her father and being expelled from high school, turns to Warcross to escape from her hardships. She makes ends meet by becoming a bounty hunter whose job is to track down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. She becomes an overnight sensation after she accidentally glitches herself into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships. The game’s creator hires Emika to spy on the inside of the tournament to uncover a security problem.
Snow Crash (1992) by Neal Stephenson. The novel weaves virtual reality, Sumerian mythology, and “a cool, hip cybersensibility” that makes Snow Crash “the gigathriller of the information age”. The story takes place in Los Angeles that is no longer part of the United States. The hero of the story, aptly named Hiro Protagonist, is a hacker and pizza delivery driver for the Mafia.
The Eye of Minds (2013) by James Dashner. The first book in The Mortality Doctrine series, the young adult sci-fi novel has similarities in tone and spirit to the author’s other book seriesThe Maze Runner. The story takes place in a world where anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their lives without dying, or just hand out with friends in a virtual reality system called VirtNet, which offers total mind and body immersions.
Neuromancer(1984) by William Gibson. The award-winning novel, which is one of the best-known works in the cyberpunk genre, follows Henry Case, a former talented computer hacker who lost his access to the global computer network in cyberspace, a virtual reality dataspace called the “matrix” as a punishment for stealing from his employer. Due to his chance meeting with a “street samurai, he is hired by a US ex-military officer for one last job, which brings him up against a powerful artificial intelligence.
City of Golden Shadow (1996) by Tad Williams. The story is set in the last 21st century, where virtual reality has become commonplace. The internet has been replaced by “the Net,” a vast network of online VR environments. The protagonist of the story is Renie Sulaweyo, a VR programming instructor in Durban, South Africa. After discovering that children lapse into comas after returning from “the Net,” Renie finds herself tangled in a mystery she can’t get out of.
Insignia(2012) by S.J. Kincaid. Set in the middle of World War III, which is fought over control of the assets of the solar system, the novel follows fourteen-year-old Tom Raines, whose virtual reality gaming skills made him the prominent new member of the Intrasolar Forces.
All these virtual reality books are available on Amazon.