A group of pretend adventurers suit up for a campaign called "The South Seas Treasure Game." As in the early Role Playing Games, there are Dungeon Masters, warriors, magicians, and thieves. The difference? At Dream Park, a futuristic fantasy theme park full of holographic attractions and the latest in VR technology, they play in an artificial enclosure that has been enhanced with special effects, holograms, actors, and a clever storyline. The players get as close as possible to truly living their adventure.
All's fun and games until a Park security guard is murdered, a valuable research property is stolen, and all evidence points to someone inside the game. The park's head of security, Alex Griffin, joins the game to find the killer, but finds new meaning in the games he helps keep alive.
About the Author
LARRY NIVEN is the award-winning author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction masterpieces, and fantasy novels including the Magic Goes Away series. He has received the Nebula Award, five Hugos, four Locus Awards, two Ditmars, the Prometheus, and the Robert A. Heinlein Award, among other honors. He lives in Chatsworth, California.
STEVEN BARNES' first published collaboration with Larry Niven, The Locusts, was nominated for the 1980 Hugo award. He has also written several episodes for The Outer Limits, Baywatch, and other television shows.
Read an Excerpt
By Larry Niven
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1981 Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
All rights reserved.
The train sat rigid as a steel bar, poised in midair above its magnetic monorail track, disgorging passengers into Dallas Station. Its fifteen cars had borne their passengers in quiet efficiency from New York to Dallas in just over half an hour, cradled in magnetic fields, traveling through vacuum at close to orbital velocity, deep underground.
Chester had cut it close. He shifted his heavy backpack and strode back along the train, walking like a king, projecting confidence. There would be Gamers aboard, and some would recognize him. Lore Master Chester Henderson was conscious of his unseen audience.
He stopped, dismayed. He knew that voice —
There she was, a vision in leopard tights that drew stares from all but the most jaded. Her long red hair, plaited into a thick rope, dangled down her back to the top of her belt line. She wore heavy makeup that almost hid the fact that she was, indeed, a very lovely woman. But the leotards hid nothing.
"Hello, Gina," Chester sighed with a tone somewhere south of resignation. "I should have guessed you'd be along."
"I wouldn't miss it for anything. Remember last time, when you saved me from the mammoth?"
"Cost me three points for frostbite. I remember."
"Don't complain, it's mean. Anyway, I was very appreciative." She coiled her arm around him and joined him in a rather strained lock-step toward the Dream Park shuttle.
She had been, he remembered, very appreciative. "One of your strong points," he said, and put his arm around her. It felt disturbingly good, nestled there between warm curves. "Well, I'm glad you're with us. We may need to pass you off as a virgin or something."
"Would you really?" she giggled. "I've always loved your imagination."
Chester didn't smile. "But, Gina ... if you're in, you're going to have to follow orders a mite more carefully. You almost screwed me good — stop that, I'm serious. This is extremely important to me, all right?"
Gina looked up at him and her face grew almost serious. "Anything you say, Chester."
Chester groaned to himself as they boarded the train. She had skill; she was better than most newcomers; she carried her weight and sometimes followed orders, too. But she treated it like some kind of goddam game.
Alex Griffin took his shuttle seat and settled back with eyes closed and arms folded comfortably. He had long since learned the value of catching bits of rest where he could, and could catnap during minutes most people spent fidgeting.
He stretched, and heard popping sounds as muscles and joints woke up. Small wonder they were still half-asleep. Ten minutes earlier he had been snoring in his apartment at the Cowles Modular Community, with the alarm buzzing in his ears. The third time it went off, it would refuse to shut up until his 190 pounds were lifted from the sensor in the mattress.
He opened a sleepy green eye and watched the rear monitor as the cluster of buildings receded from view. Five hundred Dream Park employees maintained residences in Cowles Modular Community, nestled in the Little San Bernardino Mountains, fifteen kilometers and six shuttle minutes away from work. Griffin was on call twenty-four hours a day, three weeks out of the month, and he appreciated the convenience of CMC. But this morning was nothing special, just the usual 6:00 A.M. roust.
Alex rolled his wrist over to check the watch imprinted on his sleeve. (Expensive indulgence. Even dry cleaning eventually messed up the printed circuitry.) Three minutes until the shuttle slid into the employee depot. He had about decided to close his eyes again when the picture in front of him changed.
The woman on the flatscreen might have been beautiful by the light of noon. At 5:56 A.M. she was evil incarnate. "Morning, Chief," she chirped, obscenely wide-awake.
"No. No, it isn't, Millicent." Alex yawned rudely, remotely disliking himself for it. He ran blunt fingers through his light red hair and made a serious attempt to focus his eyes. "Oh, what the hay. Maybe it is a good morning. Maybe it'll even be a good day. I'm sorry, Millicent. What's up?"
"Final prep for the South Seas Treasure Game tomorrow is the hottest item. You have some dossiers to go over."
"I know. What else?"
She shook her head, her loosely curled afro bouncing a bit as she studied the computer display on a second screen off-screen. "Umm ... budget meeting with the Boss."
He was definitely more alert now. "Did I exceed Harmony's projected red last quarter?"
"Don't think so. Better not have. That's my department, and I don't make mistakes like that. Heh heh."
"I think we're switching over from zero-base budgeting to some new system that Harmony is hot on."
"Oh, Lord. What else? Don't I have a class to teach today?"
"Yes. One o'clock, right after a scheduled lunch with O'Brien."
Alex's face lit up. "Hallelujah. A bright spot at last. Tell Skip to meet me at 'leven thirty at the White Hart, okay? And ask him to bring me the L-5 specs. I want to see them. What about the class?"
"Standard Constraint and Detention stuff. For the new security people."
"Right." Alex glanced at his sleeve; the station was seconds away. "Make me a memo. Standing arm bar, crossover toe hold for the ground work, and oh, let's say knife disarms. Right and left wrist locks with low kicks. I'll wing it from there. I'm almost in, now, hon. I'll see you in a few minutes, okay?" "Right, Griff," she said, flashing him a smile as the picture faded out.
The shuttle let him out in the central core of the twelve-hundred-acre Dream Park complex, two levels underground. Activity was heavy for this early, he thought. Then he remembered the Game. Odds were there would be five thousand dollars of last-minute work to be done, or he didn't know the catch-up kings over in Special Projects.
Tunnels stretched off in all directions: up, down, sideways, and maybe to yesterday and tomorrow if the Research Department had come up with anything since breakfast. Most of the people scurrying past knew him by name, tossing off a "Hi, Alex," or "'Sappening, Griff?," or "Morning, Chief" as they ferried racks of costumes, or props, or electronic equipment to the different divisions. A cargo tram hissed in, and a crew of overalled workers and tiny humming cargo 'bots rushed in to unload so that another shipment could hurry down the line.
He tossed a friendly salute to the guard at the elevator and pressed his right thumb against the ID pad. The door opened. Five or six people crowded in after him, and Alex controlled his annoyance when only two of them put their thumbs to the pad for clearance. More memos, dammit.
It was 6:22 A.M., Thursday, March 5, 2051, according to Alex's desk clock. Propped on the clock was a sheet of fanfold paper, Millicent's printout of the day's obligations.
Alex doffed his coat and dropped into his chair. He punched a finger at the desk console. A hologram "window" formed above his desk: a name-plate that read "Ms. Summers," and behind the nameplate a dark pretty face whipping around to answer the buzz.
"Millicent, can't I foist some of this off on Bobbick? How the hell is he going to earn his pay if I do all the work?" "Marty is already with Insurance going over the damage report on the Salvage Game that ended yesterday in Gaming Area B. He should be free by about two this afternoon, or do you want me to ...?"
"No, leave him on it. Listen. Do I have to go all the way over to R and D or can we take care of this mess by phone? Lord knows I've got enough paper to shuffle before eight. Check it out, would you?"
"Right, Griff. I'm pretty sure that'll go."
Her face blinked out, and Alex punched for a display of today's "paperwork." Three columns of headings ran off the screen. An executive secretary and a deputy Security Chief and this much garbage still filtered up to him. Work first?
A slow smile played over his face. A little peek at the Park first.
He triggered the exterior monitor and watched the room swell with the darkened spirals of Dream Park. From the vantage of the monitoring camera the workers readying the Park for the day's visitors were ants streaming in and out of the long black shadows of early morning.
There was the somber shape of the Olde Arkham tour. (The kids loved it. The adults ... well, an old lady with a heart murmur had damn near croaked when Chthulhu appeared to devour her grandchildren. Some people!)
Snakelike and far off around the edge of the Park the Gravity Whip coiled, offering a total of thirty seconds of weightlessness via computer-designed parabolic arcs. The monitor eye swept over to Gaming Area B, where the Salvage Game had been conducted.
That one was interesting. Partly in desert territory and partly underwater, it had involved twelve players for two days. Alex figured that the Game Master on that one would just about break even. It had cost three hundred thousand dollars to set the Game up. The twelve participants had paid four hundred a day, each, for the privilege of earning "Gaming Points" for the fantasy characters they portrayed and, not incidentally, for having the bejeezus scared out of them. Book rights presold, film rights likewise. ... He couldn't pretend to understand the logic behind it. The vagaries of the International Gaming Society were totally beyond him. The players seemed to speak a foreign language. And this month they had two Games back to back!
The Games did help the Park, though. The Olde Arkham Tour had started as a Game, thirty or forty years ago.
There, now, that was more like it. The big shooting gallery over across from the Hell Ride was more his cup of tea. Alex slipped in there occasionally to knock off a few Nazis or dinosaurs or muggers. God, that was a realistic "experience." The R&D boys were incredible. And quite mad.
He thumbed the control, and the camera roved further afield. Over there — His monitor buzzed, and with a grimace Alex shut off the holo and answered the call. Millie's voice spoke, but the congealing visual image was of a guard Griffin couldn't quite place.
"Research and Development, Griff," Millie's voice said.
"Right." Name and background fell into place now. This would be Albert Rice calling from his guard station between Files and the technological monster known as Game Center.
Rice was strong and smart, quick to volunteer his services, and Griffin sometimes felt a twinge of guilt at not warming to the man. Maybe just jealousy, he mused. Rice cut a handsome blond profile, almost pretty, and several of the secretaries in Protective Services had bets going to see who would score with him first. In the year Rice had been with Dream Park, nobody had yet collected.
Something was bothering Rice. He seemed agitated; he kept shifting his feet.
"Yes, Rice, what's the problem?" "Ah, good morning, sir. Nothing wrong here at the post, but —" He hesitated, then blurted, "I just got word that my apartment in CMC was vandalized."
Griffin felt himself coming to attention. "When was the report filed?" "Only about a half hour ago. Lock broken, and some stuff scattered around, the cop said, but they didn't take my electronics. I'd like to see what is missing."
Griffin nodded somberly. "You don't have any crazy friends over there in R and D, do you — No, scratch that." They weren't that crazy. "You'd better take the rest of your shift off. I'll get somebody over there to fill in in about twenty minutes. Check out then. What's going on over there?" "Mostly prepping Game Central for the South Seas Treasure Game."
"Yeah, that looks to be a monster. Listen, would you like to make up the hours you'll lose this afternoon?" Albert Rice nodded enthusiastic agreement. "Good. Put in for the night shift, and check back in at midnight. We'll work you eight to five for a few days, all right?" "Right, Chief."
Alex signed out and blanked the image. He popped on the inter-office line and Millie appeared, smile neatly in place. "Millie, send me the dossiers on the Game tomorrow, will you?"
The printer on his desk began hissing immediately, and sheets of fan-fold paper arced slowly up and folded themselves into a neat pile. Griffin shook his head. How could Millie be so cheerful every morning? He ought to steal a cup of her coffee and send it to R&D to be analyzed ...
He tore off the first set of pages.
The picture of a handsome, dark-skinned young man with a neatly trimmed beard looked somberly out of the holo. Details were in the opposing corner. Name: Richard Lopez. Age: 26. Gaming position: Game Master.
Oh, well, then this once-over of the file was purely perfunctory. Lopez would have been put through a complete security and tech checkout. Anyone who walked into Gaming Central was cleaner than boiled soap. And sharp, too. Evans, the girl who had guided the recent Salvage Game, had had three years at MIT on top of the master's degree she picked up in Air Force electronics school. And that was only Gaming Area B. Area A was twice as large, and the Gaming Central was three times as complex. Lopez would be very good indeed. Griffin would make a point to be there when Lopez and his assistant entered the control complex tomorrow morning.
His assistant? A tallish oriental girl with short black hair and shining white teeth smiled shyly from the page. Mitsuko "Chi-Chi" Lopez. Twenty-five, and a quick skim of the dossier confirmed that she was superbly qualified to copilot the four-day jaunt ahead.
Birds of a feather, Alex guessed. Probably met in Dream Park; might even have been married in one of the Dream Park wedding chapels. Those could be interesting ceremonies; the wedding guests might include anyone from Glinda the Good Witch to Bluebeard to Gandalf to a Motie Mediator. Angels were popular.
Who else? Ahh ... the Lore Master. The Lore Master, the Chester Henderson. Henderson ran parties through Dream Park about three times a year, and would come out from Texas even for a relatively small outing. Generally his way was paid by the players or the Game Masters or their backers.
Hadn't there been some trouble with Henderson about a year ago? Alex skimmed down the sheet. Chester Henderson. Thirty-two years old (though he seemed younger in the picture. His deadly serious look was almost daunting). Had been to Dream Park thirty-four times, and was considered a valuable customer.
... Here it was. A year ago, Chester had taken an expedition into "the mountains of Tibet," hopefully to bring back a mammoth. The party had met disaster, three out of thirteen surviving, and no mammoth. Chester had dropped several hundred Gaming Points, threatening his standing in the International Fantasy Gaming Society. And who had been Game Master on that ill-fated expedition?
Aha! Richard Lopez. Chester had yelled Foul to the IFGS, and they had passed down the decision that although something called "snow vipers" were unusually lethal, all of the nasty tricks used against the expedition were within the rules. Lopez was given a warning, but Henderson had lost three hundred and sixty-eight Gaming Points. Even more interesting: until this year, Lopez had operated anonymously, as a "mystery Game Master," carrying out gaming negotiations through his wife, Mitsuko. Henderson had demanded a face-to-face meeting for this year's Game, and the IFGS agreed.
This, then, would be the first time two legends had actually met. Alex leaned back in his chair and considered the ceiling. This sounded like a grudge match, it did. And grudge matches were always interesting.CHAPTER 2
A Stroll Through Old Los Angeles
Acacia was antsy. She had been growing progressively more eager since they boarded the subway in Dallas. Now she tugged at Tony's arm, pulling him away from the check-in counter while he tried to put his wallet away. "Come on, Tony! Let's get in there before the crowds clog up the works."
"Okay, okay. Where do we go first?"
Memories glowed in her face. "God, I can't decide. Chamber of Horrors? Yeah, there first, then the Everest Slalom. Love it love it love it. You will, too, spoilsport."
"Hey. I'm here, aren't I? There's a fine line between sensible emotional restraint, and the withdrawal symptoms of a stimulus junky denied her fix."
"You're a wordy bastard," she said, and took off running down the tunnel entrance, pulling at his arm with both hands. He laughed and let her tow him into daylight.
The impact of Dream Park came suddenly, just beyond the tunnel. From the top of a flight of wide steps one could see three multi-tiered shopping and amusement malls, each twelve stories high, that stretched and twisted away like the walls of a maze. The space between was filled — cluttered — with nooks, gullies, walkways, open-air theaters, picnic areas, smaller spired and domed buildings, and thousands of milling people.
Excerpted from Dream Park by Larry Niven. Copyright © 1981 Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters,
2. A Stroll Through Old Los Angeles,
3. The Lore Master,
4. The Master Dreamers,
5. The Naming of Names,
6. Flight of Fancy,
7. The Road of the Cargo,
8. The Banquet,
9. Killed Out,
10. Neutral Scent,
11. Game Plan,
13. Enter the Griffin,
14. The Water People,
15. The Rite of Horrific Splendor,
16. Rest Break,
17. The Last Replacements,
18. Snakebite Cure,
19. Neck Riddles,
20. The Sea of Lost Ships,
21. The Haiavaha,
22. The Electric Pizza Mystery,
23. Black Fire,
25. The Egg of the Airplane,
26. The Laughing Dead,
27. Cargo Craft,
28. Thieves in the Night,
29. End Game,
30. The Final Tally,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a great book. It also isn't new. It shouldn't be in the new releases section
There’s a lot to like about this novel. On the one hand it’s built around a very interesting murder mystery in which the authors play fair and give you all the pieces you need to solve the murder. (I didn’t solve it, but I was left feeling like I could have done so.) On the other hand, it’s the story of a role playing game played live-action with incredibly sophisticated technology—a clear forerunner to many modern novels built around virtual-reality-based games. It’s also a form of coming-of-age story in which the main character, Griffon, the head of Dream Park security has to go undercover in the gaming experience to catch a murderer and learns to love and respect the games that are the heart of Dream Park’s business. This is an intricately plotted novel in which the roleplaying adventure is built upon the most interesting mythology. It’s wonderfully creative and sure to hold your interest.
I read this book when it was first published. As an RPGer and Niven fan it was the perfect answer to two cravings. Long before I was finished I was anxiously waiting for technology to catch up to the authors' vision.
If you are a Dungeons & Dragons fan then you will love this book. Even if you're not this is a great book. The characters are delightful, the story is fun and exciting. Mystery, action, romance, fantasy...it's all here. I could read this book over and over. Come to think of it I have. Enjoy.
This is not so much about the book but the B&N website. I expected this book to be something new as the publication date was in the last fewe years, However this book is 20 plus years old and I forgot I had already read it. This is the second book I have purchased that apparently has the date the book is put on line as the publication date. That is totally misleading. And I don't want to download a sample every time I want to look at a book. Give me some accurate information next time. Yeah, like that will happen.