Joachim Breitner's Homepage
I recently finished reading the first volume of Tad Williams' "Otherland" triology. I have mixed feelings about this book. First important thing to know when starting to read the book: It not only says "Volume One", it means "Volume One": The story is even more unfinished as the story of the ring after The Fellowship. Also, the reader needs quite some patience with the book as about the first half is not really exciting. I'm not saying it is not interesting, but it is not hard to stop in that half, so one might stop for good, missing the better half of the book.
The better half is the second one: By now, each of the half dozen seemingly independand stories have advanced far enough to be interesting for themselves, and the first slight connections become apparent. This separation in several tracks actually helped me through beginning: It is always a surprise what storie will be continued now, and for what story you have to wait. Also, only after some reading time the reader feels at home is the not-too-much, but still, different world. And of course, by now the conflict is fully visible, so that after some point, you just want to know what's going to happen.
The book was first published in 1996, when the Internet was just beginning to become mainstream. Nevertheless, Williams created a very convincing view of the world in a few decades. The ways in which the net is accessed in the futrure, from simple touchscreens over 3D goggle to neuron implants, are still the most probable way. There are sucessful experiments with a neuro prosthesis proving a 12x12 pixel black and white vision to blinds.
Also the way the net itself is described, a commercialized copy of the real world, with people paying a lot of realmoney for prestigous sims and strange buildings, but also with a non-commerial, distributed ran hackers' playground, is something that has already become real: Products like Second Life are fightening similar to Williams' vision: A world where people pay real world money for vitual estate, where they can do just about everything they could do offline: Finding friends, being creative, working, playing, showing off. I must admit, after having read the book, I would have tried Second Life myself, but as long as they don't provide a linux client. Although I still would prefer a free and distributed equivalent to Second Life. "Tree House" rather than "Inner District", for those who have read Otherland.