RogerBW's Blog

Simulacron-3, Daniel F. Galouye 07 August 2023

1964 SF. Douglas Hall is working on a simulated reality to make product test-marketing cheaper. But all of a sudden things aren't the way he remembers them being… UK vt Counterfeit World.

This early virtual-world story is perhaps more remarkable for its idea than for the execution. The language of technology is clearly of the late analogue electronic computer era, and nobody seems to have thought about just how much storage space would be needed to run something that thinks like a human being – and indeed one of the plot points is that people in the upper world don't regard the inhabitants of the lower world as human, even though they can be inserted into that lower world and have conversations with them.

There's some effectively Dickian paranoia, as Hall tries to work out whether his increasingly strange experiences are signs of an ongoing mental breakdown or of something actually wrong with the world. Other characters are less convincing, particularly the women, though everyone becomes an object of suspicion at some point; a side plot with the funder of the simulation planning to use it to make himself a political leader feels as though it's really from a different story; and the ending, while somewhat foreshadowed, seems remarkably upbeat conmpared with what's gone before.

Still, an enjoyable book and an interesting one considered in its historical context.

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