cover image Death Dream

Death Dream

Ben Bova. Spectra Books, $22.95 (497pp) ISBN 978-0-553-08234-0

Mayhem is afoot at Cyber World, the futuristic setting of this ambitious but not entirely satisfying thriller by SF stalwart Bova ( Voyagers ). While computer programmers Damon Santorini and Jason Lowrey are in Florida creating a virtual reality (VR) park that will simulate a walk on the moon, combat in a jet fighter and other exotic adventures, users of a VR flight simulator they developed for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are suffering inexplicable strokes. Santorini agrees to investigate, tugging the story line into several curious twists--and nearly as many false starts and blind alleys. Bova concocts a complicated melange of high government and Air Force officials, old love affairs and possible identity changes, but he fails to deal fully with several plot fragments. Although each major adult character here is sexually dysfunctional, their peccadilloes--one of which leads to a significant subplot--are rendered in the same subdued voice as the rest of the novel. Also, descriptions of the VR programs in strictly workmanlike prose prove disappointing--as does the book's incredible denouement. Though Bova's attempt to combine SF and high-tech thrills occasionally engrosses, it ultimately fails to slip into high gear. (Aug.)