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Virtually Dead (2010)

von Peter May

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383529,138 (3.08)2
Staggering under the grief and financial burden left by his recently deceased wife, crime-scene photographer Michael Kapinsky enters a virtual world called Second Life to participate in a new kind of group therapy, but once there, his persona, Chas Chesnokov, uncovers a series of killings and a financial scam that is netting a murderer millions of dollars.… (mehr)
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Michael Kapinsky is a crime scene photographer returning to work after a 3-year absence. His wife Mora died 6 months earlier and even though he lives in her multimillion dollar house, he is basically broke. He's wallowing in his grief, and when he starts cutting back on expenses, his therapist is one more luxury he can't afford. His therapist offers him a chance to try group therapy for free in Second Life (SL), a virtual community online.

He signs up reluctantly, and hooks up with a coworker who is also in SL to join her Twist of Fate detective agency. Almost immediately they discover that a crime scene in SL mirrors a recent crime scene in Real Life (RL). The photographers decide to become detectives in RL and SL.

Peter May touches on several themes like people feeling free to say whatever they want when they are anonymous online, the prevalence of virtual sex and the ability to launder real money through the virtual world. Players in SL use credit cards to purchase lindens (SL money) that they can then use to buy virtual clothes, body parts, virtual land and more. Mike ends up in trouble with the mob in RL after his avatar finds $3m in his SL account, and Mike stupidly uses it to get out of debt in RL.

Janey, Mike's coworker in RL and detective partner in SL, was the only character I liked. I thought Mike was shallow and self-centered.

May spends a lot of time explaining SL. I've never been on it, but I have an idea of what it's like because I play The Sims. If you haven't played a simulation game, then you might have some difficulty following the book. ( )
  bohemiangirl35 | Nov 19, 2012 |
From My Blog...

In Virtually Dead by Peter May, Second Life participants are being murdered and the murder is breaking through to real life. Michael Kapinsky in real life is a Newport CSI who has lost his wife, is about to lose his home and can no longer afford his much needed therapy sessions to help him overcome the grief he is experiencing and to help him move forward with his life. When Michael explains to his therapist, Angela, that he will no longer be able to attend his therapy sessions, Angela informs Michael of a new and experimental group therapy session she has created in Second Life and invites Michael to give it a try. After all what does he have to lose? From these sessions, Chas Chesnokov is created. Janey, Michael's friend is known as "Twist" in Second Life and has devised a way to make money in Second Life. Posing as a man, she opened Twist of Fate Detective Agency, inviting Chas to be her partner. When people begin dying off, Chas is determined to find out how and who is behind the deaths. Confused? I was dreadfully lost and I still am uncertain what Second Life is, even though May does offer the reader a brief tutorial, which may be helpful to many, but confused me further. The language and abbreviations of Second Life (SL) left me confused and unfortunately for me, a vast majority of the book is written in the format that I can only assume is an SL format. While I did not enjoy Virtually Dead, I never managed to feel comfortable with the layout of the book and had no feelings towards any of the characters; I believe many who do indeed know what Second Life is as well as the terminology may find this mystery to be an enjoyable read. The premise is an intriguing one, yet I was unable to enjoy it due to my struggling with the format and lingo. I am still trying to puzzle out what a "poseball" is and realize now I truly do not care. Clearly, this book was simply not written for me. For those looking for a good mystery that ties real life with Second Life may want to give Virtually Dead a chance. ( )
  knittingmomof3 | Jun 19, 2010 |
Michael Kapinsky is a crime scene photographer still grieving over the death of his first wife Mora 6 months before. His therapist suggest that he join her Second Life therapy sessions. Initially Michael does not think this sounds like something for him, but he agrees to give it a try. He downloads the Second Life (SL) software onto his computer, sets up his avatar, and then begins to explore.

He realises that one of the homicide victims he recently photographed had SL running on his computer.

In Real Life (RL) Mike is running into some financial problems. His late wife had been the source of the money and their Californian beachside house is mortgaged for several million dollars. The rest of the money is tied up in shares that he can't touch. It is beginning to look as if he will have to sell up, and even then will walk away with nothing.

Then all of Mike's problems appear to be solved when a huge amount of money, more than the mortgage, appears in his SL account. Mike decides to take it out to pay the mortgage. That's when his SL and RL lives cross over and he finds that he owes "the mob".

VIRTUALLY DEAD is a crime fiction thriller in which, among other themes, Peter May explores connections SL residents have with each other, and with their RLs. He raises some interesting issues including the ways in which people use SL to explore things such as sexuality in ways they can't in RL. He looks too at crime in SL, and how it is dealt with. Mike Karpinsky finds himself investigating deaths in RL that coincide with the death of the SL avatar. Mike's mortgage issue links to the possibility of using SL for money laundering and tax evasion in RL.

I'm not sure VIRTUALLY DEAD will appeal to readers who know nothing about Second Life, and I suspect that to appreciate the nuances of the story you may need to have spent some time there and understand some of the possibilities. I think it will be a novel that will appeal to a "Second Life" readership.

It is a very different book to the last Peter May title I reviewed, THE RUNNER, and despite a personal interest in exploring virtual worlds like Second Life, it was not nearly as engaging for me, for at least the first half of the book. Perhaps this was partly because along with the avatars the author took considerable delight in exploring the sexual world of SL. One aspect I did find interesting was that May ceased to specifically tell the reader which world, SL or RL, the action was taking place in, and you had to use other indicators such as what was happening, or the names of the avatars. I liked also his exploration of how much most SL residents know about their RL personalities. In my explorations of SL I have always known who the avatar had been created by, but I accept there will be times when you will never know. ( )
  smik | Mar 9, 2010 |
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Staggering under the grief and financial burden left by his recently deceased wife, crime-scene photographer Michael Kapinsky enters a virtual world called Second Life to participate in a new kind of group therapy, but once there, his persona, Chas Chesnokov, uncovers a series of killings and a financial scam that is netting a murderer millions of dollars.

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