Science fiction books can often leave readers in awe and disbelief. Books exploring futuristic concepts such as artificial intelligence (AI) or virtual reality (VR) a few years ago, for example, may have met with scepticism from some readers. But as we know now, many of these concepts have started taking shape.
The metaverse is one such concept. First described in 1992 by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson as a 3-D virtual space, this virtual universe is rapidly gaining popularity now. Although still in its infancy, it promises to bring together technologies like VR, AI, and simulation in a single package. For those who are yet to catch up on this latest technological innovation, here is a list of science fiction books with interesting thoughts on how the metaverse could evolve.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Often hailed as the book that introduced the cyberpunk aesthetic to science fiction, the book explores a virtual world known as ‘Cyberspace’ where hackers or ‘console cowboys’ use a virtual world for corporate espionage and stealing private data.
Hackers in this world enter the virtual world using a device called a deck, which is hooked up to hardware mounted on the hacker’s head. When the hacker is in the virtual world, they can see the systems they are hacking into, represented as cityscapes of light or walls of green ice.
It is a riveting book that also explores artificial intelligence, cybernetic enhancements, and digital consciousness while having grounded characters you can relate to.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In this universe, the virtual world known as the ‘Oasis’ is peddled to the masses by a single corporation with the ultimate goal of profiting (a theme science fiction often touches upon). The players in the game use headsets and even a custom-built bodysuit to experience every sensation their avatar would feel in the game.
The novel’s central premise is that the creator of the oasis has left easter eggs in the game, and the player who discovers them all would inherit his fortune and the virtual world. The novel explores virtual reality games and how people get obsessed with them in the novel. Plus, the book is a love letter to 1980s pop culture.
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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
To what lengths would you go to own a real live farm animal? If you ask this question to the protagonist of this novel, Rick Deckard, he will probably make you get an elaborate test done to check if you are an android.
This classic story from famed science fiction writer Philip K Dick explores a world where a disastrous war has left a substantial part of the earth uninhabitable. This has led to a large portion of humanity leaving earth for off-world colonies. When people move to a colony, they are given subservient androids who look indistinguishable from humans.
Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter hunting six androids that escaped from mars. Deckard only has one ambition in his life, and that is to buy a real live sheep from the bounties of those six androids.
The book explores the idea of artificial intelligence and its place in the world and whether they are created only to serve humanity or can have their own ambitions and dreams.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Snow Crash is a novel that weaves together concepts that would seem incompatible, like Sumerian myths and a virtual reality 3-D world. As mentioned above, Stephenson was the first to use the term metaverse that the world has now latched on to.
It is a cyberpunk story very much in the vein of Neuromancer, where the protagonist is a pizza delivery driver by day and a versatile hacker by night who roams the virtual world of metaverse as warrior prince trying to unravel the mystery of a mysterious virus that is taking down hackers in the metaverse.
Though the metaverse of snow crash is a satirical outlook of corporation-dominated future America, as opposed to the metaverse being worked in our world that is supposed to be decentralized and distributed. It is still a riveting look at the possibilities of a virtual world.
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
Daemon is a harrowing and thrilling journey exploring the convergence of MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) BotNets, viral ecosystems, and corporate dominance.
The death of a renowned game designer who created one of the most popular games in the world resulted in the creation of a deadly swarm of artificially intelligent bots hellbent on destroying the world.
The novel explores concepts of AI, hacking and sentient computer programs.
(Edited by : Vijay A, Yashi G)
First Published: IST