Death Tango (Running Wild Press/ RIZE )
The book opens with a grisly murder by a nameless someone who is not fully human and feels not only slighted by a scientist named Dr. Ferguson but threatened by him–so they do away with him.
Rosa Lejune, a young woman student at the School for Intelligence, tries to scale a cliff to be lifted out of obscurity and is instead cruelly flung off, near the top. While dead she meets some sort of otherworldly being. When she lives through it, you realize this scene must be earlier because Dr. Ferguson is visiting her as she recovers.
Now an adult, Rosa is an intensely private person who rents out her VR self for a living, never her real self–no touching–because she’s become a stronger and stronger empath since she fell (or was pushed) off that cliff and she’s avoiding a nasty and possessive ex. She’s on her way to a full-immersion VR appearance at her mentor, Dr. Ferguson’s, wake. But instead she gets fired from her Escort duties for failing to meet in real life with a persistent client. Her anonymity is gone and she has to re-enter society to make a living.
Torian Ross, originally a prominent transhuman influencer, is now Chief Crisis Officer for Oz Corp, which owns most of the VR platforms and support programming. He uses VR to attend Dr. Ferguson’s funeral, only to be accosted by a VR messenger whose avatar is unregistered and modeled after a man who died 90 years ago. Then he gets home and his unhackable VR environment is hacked.
Kris Johnson was an accomplished VR hacker who befriended others who’d been physically damaged trying to rise to the top–literally or metaphorically–at the same Fame School where Rose Lejune was injured. With the robot dog he’d designed, Kris hacks into Torian Ross’s stream to get his attention because he’s convinced that Dr. Ferguson was murdered. He ends up working for Torian.
The four team up in an attempt to uncover who murdered their science professor mentor, eventually helped by the head of Oz Corp who is another graduate of the Fame School. And whoever has taken over Ferguson’s research has unleashed a gruesome plague on New York City. If the team can’t work quickly to solve this threat, New York City will be devoured by this plague. But what’s causing it? And what is Indigo? An anti-VR religious sect might know.
If you don’t like multi-POV tales you might not like this novel, but if you do? Stick with it. It becomes un-putdown-able. Great read!