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I'm trying to remember a book I picked up around 2014, the copy seemed reasonably worn but it could have been recent. The story centred on a teenage boy who spent all his time in a worldwide VR MMORPG.

From what I remember of the virtual world, it was a standard (Tolkein-style) fantasy setting. I think he was on some sort of quest that had repercussions in the real world. It mentioned that the only time he spent out of his VR chair was to do an intensive exercise regime in the morning because keeping fit helped the sharpness of your mind, and he looked down on people who didn't bother.

There was also a high-school girl, who received a mysterious invitation to be a part of some covert group in the virtual world who were hunting down people like the boy to stop them from completing the quest. Her potential group is a small cell of ~5 people. She may have had to recruit other people from her school, or was head-hunted specifically because she was a high-schooler? Finding out the nature of the secret group was a story arc, and not explained right away. It covers some high-school drama about her peers, mostly via chat and email.

I remember that she logs on to her "desktop" which is a grand room like a domed observatory with planets visible in the background. It takes some time to explain the concept of a desktop as a facade for your filing system, and says that some people have actual filing cabinets in theirs because they can only think literally about it (which leads me to believe it was written before the 2000's, when everyone wasn't as familiar with computers).

The feel of the writing was cheesy and 90's, with the covert group being called something like "net detectives". I read it in English in New Zealand. I only read half of it, so it would be great to find out what it was.

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I finally found it - it's Tom Clancy's Net Force Explorers #2 - The Deadliest Game by Diane Duane. I misremembered several of the details, I probably conflated some with Ready Player One .

Book cover image

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    Thanks for letting us know the answer! Two days after asking your question you can accept a self answer so in roughly 30 hours. Please come back and do so! – TheLethalCarrot Jun 6 '18 at 12:09
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    Well done, it's especially hard to find conflated stories since the books don't actually exist. – Ash Jun 6 '18 at 14:22
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Is it Ready Player One by any chance? The quest is to find the Golden Easter Egg put into the virtual world, called the OASIS, by it's creator James Halliday. The group doing the hunting are known as Sixers and work for IOI. The main protagonist spends so much time questing he has to implement a training regime to slow down his weight gain.

  • I thought of that too; a lot of details fit but a fair few don't. – Moriarty Jun 5 '18 at 23:33
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    No, I read that recently in the hopes that it might be. It didn't have such a focus on (existing) pop-culture, and the protagonist had access to good VR gear from the start. Also the covert group the girl was invited to was a small cell of ~5 people, rather than a huge homogeneous conglomerate. – tias42 Jun 6 '18 at 9:21
  • @tias42 Oh sorry I misread who they attempted to recruit, end of the day-itise, I'll keep looking, this rings a bell. – Ash Jun 6 '18 at 10:28

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