Daniel F Galouye’s 1964 science fiction novel, Simulacron-3, is considered to be one of the earliest examples of fiction that describes a virtual world (in the way that we would understand it today, a computer rendered, digital simulation).
The novel’s been adapted into World on a Wire (a 1973, German, two part mini-TV-series), and The Thirteenth Floor (which came out in 1999, the same year as The Matrix). Today the idea of ‘conscious’ characters living within an artificially rendered environment is mainstream, commonplace even, and, depending on how it’s used, you might even call it a cliché.
Virtual reality is a modern reuse of the dream scenario that’s been used in storytelling since ancient times. Like dreams, virtual reality is often used as a framed story, a story within a story. The virtual world is also a journey into another world, one where the other world, reality, is strange and unknown, and the familiar is a deceptive facade.
I really wanted to like this novel, it’s intelligently written, but there was something about it that feels emotionally unapproachable. It’s a slow burner of a story that takes its time to get to the revelation.
The love affair was predictable, as if had been constructed to satisfy the plot's final outcome. Similarly, the protagonist felt like he’d been saved, instead of having solved the story problem for himself, which I found frustrating. The novel is subtle and thoughtful, demonstrating the philosophical implications of virtual reality but, perhaps deliberately, it lacks a sufficient sense of being inhabited by living, breathing, human warmth.