PsyBot: A Novel of Virtual Reality

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PsyBot is every programmer’s nightmare: the bug that shows up on the user side of the interface. In this psychological thriller set in the cyberpunk era, Joe Norton’s all-too-ordinary life in Vancouver is coming apart at the seams. Given instructions to kill and a baffling menu of choices, Norton must navigate his way back to sanity. Is the only way out, to go further in? Never mind that one shaky relationship gives way to another, or that his job is jeopardized by a corporate buyout. Norton has a wider mission to complete, as he discovers that virtual reality is not confined to hardware.

PsyBot is a literate technothriller, both gritty and poetic, about virtual reality and the consequences of choice. Blending psychological suspense and magic realism with sci-fi themes of alternate timelines, artificial intelligence, mind control, corporate conspiracy, and astral projection, this noir nod to cyberpunk traces the quest of Joe Norton for survival, sanity, and love.

The middlebrow hero of this offbeat, surrealistic narrative rides a bizarre cybernetic mind-bender, a hacked program set to unleash on an unsuspecting world. Set in Vancouver, BC in 1992 when high-tech was set for takeoff–PsyBot is both speculative technothriller and character study. Its themes comprise personal growth and corporate machination; its prose conveys both gritty description and eloquent quest. The use of genre elements—alien abduction, offworld travel, astral projection—is effectively ironic, introduced by the rogue computer virus to tempt and tease, to call into question the arbitrary fabric of every virtual reality we yearn for or claim to inhabit.

This literate cross-genre novel recalls the intelligent science fiction of Michael Crichton, Stanislav Lem (Solaris), Neal Stephenson, William Gibson and Philip K. Dick – or the popular films Inception, The Matrix, Minority Report, Source Code, Total Recall and The Adjustment Bureau. Elements of the novel also recall the literature of Vonnegut, Borges, Eco, and Jan Potocki. PsyBot’s early ‘90s Vancouver stands as the prequel to a cyberpunk world, society at large unaffected… yet.

“Surreal, bizarre… fascinating, three-dimensional characters.” “Beautiful, unique prose, blurring genre and literary fiction”… exploring the limits of free will, personal transformation and the “very nature of reality in this post-digital age.”

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