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One hundred years ago, the World Net crashed, creating a separate virtual-reality universe complete with its own gods, its own civilizations, its own magic. Virtù can be accessed for recreation or business from our own world, Verité, through virtual bodies. None of the self-aware programs of Virtù can visit Verité, however, and the more powerful of them deeply resent it. John D'Arcy Donnerjack, instrumental in creating Virtù and among the foremost explorers of its wonders, has fallen in love with an artificial intelligence named Ayradyss. When she dies, Donnerjack follows her to Death's realm and demands her back. Donnerjack is granted his wish, but only after he promises to give Death their firstborn. What Death wants with young Jay Donnerjack is not at first clear, but it's obvious that the young man is destined to play a major role in the war that's brewing between the two universes. Zelazny (the Amber series) left this fantasy novel unfinished at his death in 1995, one of two of his to be completed by Lindskold (The Pipes of Orpheus), his longtime companion. Although breaking little new ground, the book features a complex and ambitious plot, beautiful language and Zelazny's trademark gonzo fusion of science fiction and fantasy elements. It's good to see a master of the form going out on a high note. (July) FYI: The second posthumous Zelazny-Lindskold collaboration, Lord Demon, will be published by Ace in 1999.

Zelazny died in 1995 after beginning this next-to-last hard sf collaboration with Lindskold. They have created a dazzling, 22nd-century future in which the real world, Verité, coexists with a computer-generated realm, Virtù. While citizens of Verité can visit the virtual world, denizens of Virtù cannot exist in Verité until John D'Arcy Donnerjack makes a deal with Death to save his beloved Virtùal, Ayradyss. She is the first to cross over to Verité in exchange for giving their firstborn son to Death. First Donnerjack and then his son must find a way to cheat Death. In this intricately plotted novel, the authors create believable, densely populated worlds with a richness of characterization and subplots that will leave readers believing in Virtù. Highly recommended for most sf collections.

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