Gillian Adams asked me to read her short story "Disconnect". It's about a cop and a tech group that fight a Megacrop of virtual reality. I will examine plot, characters, and polish before assigning a grade.
In a nutshell, this story is like The Matrix and Neon Genesis Evangelion blended together and much shorter than either one.
From the start I'm reminded of Matrix; the first scene is the protagonist pulled out of Virtual Reality in a blind and helpless state, similar to Neo. The similarities continue to pile up from there.
-You have a small tech savvy group rebelling against a much larger organization that manages a virtual reality simulator which led to a city's decay because no one spends time outside the VR.
-This organization hunts the group with Men in Black
-The only way to stop them is with a special person who can use reality warper power to go to the machine's core and shut it down.
-At the core, this special guy talks to the bad guy in charge and makes a decision that involves his love interest.
There's so much background religious symbolism it's like watching Neon Genesis Evangelion.
-The protagonist's name is "Adam" which is the first human man according to Judeo-Christian tradition. In other words, "one" but there's a further implication. Biblical!Adam is part of the reason that humans don't live in earthly paradise and Virtual Life is held up as such a paradise by its creator company and many users.
-The protagonist says "welcome to the promised land" when he ejects everyone from the VR and into real life.
-A networker who wears a "blood red dress" puts a "crown of twisted metal" on the protagonist's head in order to restore his memories and warns him that it will cause him great suffering. The protagonist insists on it so he can better help people.
-A virtual reality port set up in a decayed church with the protagonist on the altar. After he's hooked into the VR, (i.e. ritually sacrificed) he regains god-like reality warper powers.
-The person who causes much of this symbolism is called "Zen", which is the name of a form of Buddhism that emphasizes meditation. Buddhism in general regards life itself as suffering, which would include virtual life.
-The protagonist says that computer code lacks a "divine spark", in other words, a 'soul' and is therefore an illusion.
-Virtual Life is regarded as "hell" by at least one vandal who crossed out "bliss" on a Virtual Life poster and replaced it with "hell".
-Mr.Gold, the Virtual Life security chief, tries to tempt the protagonist with VR, which calls to mind Satan creating a false paradise that he can rule like a false god.
There a number of Fridge Logic points I'd like to bring up.
1. Despite the protagonist giving a speech about how VR is bad, neither he nor the other good guys seem to hate VR itself but the company behind it.
-The protagonist and his friend lost their wife and sister respectively. She was a hacker and killed for that reason.
-Another hero lost her husband to heart attack and she implies it was caused by the VR system.
-Zen herself points out that the heroes are fine using technology they claim to hate ("guns and computers") to fight Virtual Life.
2. Adam was wrongfully convicted of a crime, but the narration never states what crime he was convicted of. It feels like a plot device and further more his long time in VR is how he developed the powers he needed to bring down the people who convicted him. Why didn't they just shoot him? If he was trapped in their VR for twenty years they would have had ample opportunity.
3. The Protagonist was investigating a drug ring whose profits were being used to fund the VR. Why didn't they just charge a monthly subscription like everyone else? It feels like a Kick the Dog. Without this, what you have is a computer company defending itself against hackers and a self-admitted Luddite. They're overzealous to be sure but evil? The worst part is that the drug stuff is never mentioned after it's brought up the first time. Shouldn't stopping that have been part of their plan?
4. The only crime that Virtual Life (the program, not the company) is guilty of, is being too realistic, too useful, etc.
5. According to the heroes and the general landscape, the entire population of the city migrated to VR. Beyond the unlikelihood that absolutely everyone would make such a radical decision, wouldn't a sizable number of people need to stay outside for maintenance, power production, food production, etc. or are there a bunch of robots doing this for them off-screen? (Matrix!)
There's no resolution. It cuts off right after the climax. For something like "bringing down a virtual reality where the population has become so immersed the real world has decayed" I expect to see some aftermath.
Despite all this, I enjoyed reading it. It was only ten pages so it was a small time investment. It took me twice as long to write this review as to read the book.
Also, I didn't take it seriously. After the "crown of twisted metal" I stepped back and took this story apart like a Tv Toper. That made it fun.
There's a shape shifter duel in the climax. That was pretty cool.
The book is ten pages long so there's little room to develop anyone. I got some classic "For Great Justice" vibes from the protagonist but then he's overwritten by the Author Tract.
I get nothing from the other characters.
No spelling or grammar problems.
The writing is pretty good. Like I said in the plot section, I enjoyed reading the book. The Fridge Logic is just that, questions that come up after you finish reading the story. If you focus on the here and now without tangential details, then it's a solid story. It's just too short to fully develop itself.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Disconnect" a C+
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