by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Thousand Tales; How We Won the Game, by Kris Schnee.
North Charleston, SC, CreateSpace, June 2015, trade paperback $8.49 (245 pages), Kindle $2.99.
The chapters are years in which this takes place; from “2036: The Early Adopters” to “2040: Thousand Tales”.
The blurb is helpful. “The mad AI Ludo is taking over the Earth… but she just wants everyone to have fun.” But it’s not that simple.
Paul Kostakis is a high-school graduate who wants to go to college. However, in this regimented 2036, all youths are required to serve a government-approved social service to qualify for admission to higher education. Paul is assigned to a Green Communities Youth Initiative work camp across the country in Arizona, a shelter for the homeless and unemployable. Its coordinator is a friendly-appearing sadist who obviously intends to fail Paul. When he stops a madman with a gun from killing anyone in the cafeteria, she records Paul’s actions as “excessively violent”. When he tries to study for his college’s entrance exams, she wastes his time by ordering that he play an endless video game, supposedly to relax and socialize better.
Paul does so very reluctantly, but the Thousand Tales game turns out to be brand-new, controlled by an equally new Artificial Intelligence, Ludo. Ludo, appearing as a fantasy beautiful woman, intrigues Paul by tailoring an imaginary world to his specifications. “She” gradually reveals to him that she intends to follow her programming to help her players enjoy themselves, by immersing them in increasingly-complex fantasy worlds tailored to their desires; and she wants Paul to help recruit new players who need her aid. “In return for a few little favors, she’s offering ‘brain uploading’. She can fatally dice your brain, scan it, and recreate you in a virtual-reality heaven she controls. You can do anything in there: become a griffin, upgrade your mind, fall in love, or go mad.” (back-cover blurb)