Even though I’m not a gamer, I have spent many happy hours watching others play video games both at home and at work. I’ve also loved sci-fi since I was a geeky middle-schooler reading the classics by Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and more. So when I found Enders Game by Orson Scott Card and other books in which the videogame worlds come to life, I was hooked! In no particular order, here are some of my recent favorite books about gamers whose virtual worlds have come to life. The target audience for these books is male gamers between the ages of 15 and 35, but even some of us who don’t quite fit that demographic might enjoy the concept and the adventures.
Readers: please let me know if I missed your favorites!
Armada by Ernest Cline: Struggling to complete his final month of high school only to glimpse a UFO that exactly resembles an enemy ship from his favorite video game, Zack questions his sanity before becoming one of millions of gamers tasked with protecting the Earth during an alien invasion.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: Immersing himself in a mid-twenty-first-century technological virtual utopia to escape an ugly real world of famine, poverty, and disease, Wade Watts joins an increasingly violent effort to solve a series of puzzles by the virtual world’s creator.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: After a layoff during the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at the titular bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Caught in the crossfire of a megacorporation rivalry in 2575, Kady and Ezra, who have just broken up, flee their home planet on an evacuation ship that is quickly overwhelmed by a fast-spreading plague. (YA collection)
Insignia by S. J. Kincaid: Tom, a fourteen-year-old genius at virtual reality games, is recruited by the United States Military to begin training at the Pentagon Spire as a Combatant in World War III, controlling the mechanized drones that do the actual fighting off-planet. (YA)
Epic by Conor Kostick: On New Earth, a world based on a video role-playing game, fourteen-year-old Erik pursuades his friends to aid him in some unusual gambits in order to save Erik’s father from exile and safeguard the futures of each of their families. (YA)
Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer: Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard.
What could possibly go wrong?
An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin…and not, y’know, die or anything. (YA)