cover image 88 Names

88 Names

Matt Ruff. Harper, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-285467-4

Set largely in the world of virtual reality gaming, this fun, fast-paced novel from Ruff (Lovecraft Country) is equal parts amateur sleuth mystery and science fiction thriller. Californian John Chu makes his living as a sherpa, “a paid guide in a massive multiplayer online role-playing game.” But after a particularly bad break-up with his online crush, Darla Jean Covington (an “apolitical atheist omnivore who doesn’t like being put into boxes”), he gets involved with a wealthy anonymous client who calls himself Mr. Jones. The lucrative job quickly turns dangerous as Chu is threatened by another avatar, who may be a Chinese operative. As Chu’s life spirals out of control, he attempts to uncover the identity of Mr. Jones, who may be North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the irate Darla exacting vengeance, or a complete stranger. A prevailing—and powerful—theme is the nebulosity and mutability of online identity. The many pop culture SF references make this adventure pure geek gold. Ruff remains on a winning streak with this seamless genre hybrid. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Mar.)