cover image Burning Bright

Burning Bright

Melissa Scott. Tor Books, $21.95 (349pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85502-4

Scott's accomplished new novel shares some of Dreamships 's interest in virtual reality, but in a much different context. While her spaceship is undergoing repairs on Burning Bright, a planet enriched by its location on the interstellar trade route between the human and the alien hsai empires, space pilot Quinn Lioe heads to one of the planet's many gaming houses. An enthusiastic player and designer of scenarios for the Game, a vast shared virtual reality role-playing system popular throughout human space, Lioe's fledgling reputation as a session designer allows her to run a new scenario. The instantly popular scenario attracts the attention of Illario Ransome, a near-legendary gamer who had absented himself from play to explore the artistic potential of virtual reality. As her reputation grows, Lioe becomes progressively more entangled in Burning Bright politics, including a budding clash between a scheming trader and the hsai ambassador, a situation in which Ransome is involved. While the issues explored are not as absorbing as those in Dreamships , Scott's intricate plotting and interesting characterization compensate, and her exploration of the entertainment potential of virtual reality and computer nets is an intriguing variation on that common theme. The ending is somewhat drawn out, but overall this is an intelligent, engaging and memorable book. (May)