AVATARIA aka SECOND LIFE

Second Life® is one of several Internet-based virtual worlds that have been inspired by the cyberpunk literary movement, and in particular by the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Linden Laboratories and their customers have created a world like Stephenson's Metaverse, where residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, have virtual sex, and create and trade items and services with one another.

The Avataria of the novel is a fictionalised version of this virtual world, and follows its rules and conventions; indeed they are indispensable to the plot. The forensic investigation of Kyrylo's laptop computer has to observe the constraints of a Second Life viewer, and the plot's denouement hinges on an actual program which allows unscrupulous SLTM users to copy objects and avatars without the permission of their creators.


Readers who have never immersed themselves in virtual environments like Second Life may find it difficult to believe the amount of emotional power that interaction between avatars is able to generate. The nature of the virtual world tends to accelerate and intensify emotional experiences, and because of the distancing effect of the computer interface, participants are less inhibited by social norms. Fertile ground then for the novelist.

The story of Frank Nez and Simon Austin tracking down an international criminal illustrates the challenges faced by law enforcement agencies working in 21st century cyberspace. As if these aren't complex enough, there is the unfamiliar context of a virtual environment where nothing and no one is what they appear to be. Finally, there is the ability of a silver-tongued individual to seduce our emotionally vulnerable protagonist using only the image of a beautiful avatar and the power of words.