I read this in the late 1990s and I think it was fairly contemporary then. Some things I recall:

  • The protagonist is part of the company that makes virtual reality simulations.
  • Somehow he gets trapped in a simulation of a historic American city (fairly sure it is New York).
  • At one point he is gaoled in a prison ship, where he befriends a Rastafarian.
  • Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! This question would be improved by going through the checklists here; How to ask a good story-ID question? – Valorum Jul 25 '18 at 21:16
  • Sorry I don't have an answer, but boy, this reminds me of the recent British (and then American) TV series Life on Mars, where the protagonist is an astronaut in hypersleep, dreaming he is a 1970s police officer in New York City. – 70s FictionFan Jul 25 '18 at 23:50
  • @70s FictionFan Actually that ending - where he turned out to be an astronaut in suspended animation - was only in the US version. In the UK version he was a modern-day police inspector in a coma - who may have genuinely been back in time, or may have been dreaming it all. The ending to the sequel series, Ashes to Ashes, did to some extent change this but it wasn't what the show's creators had originally intended. – AJM-Reinstate-Monica Jul 26 '18 at 12:09
  • You did not specify a time frame for the "historic american city" (historic would imply not modern) and I believe prison ship were only used in Revolutionary War and Civil War, but Rastafarian has a more modern origin (1930s+) What was the time period the historical city was set in? – NJohnny Jul 31 '18 at 1:28
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    One possibility would be "Realtime Interrupt" by James P. Hogan. written in 1995. The protagonist developed a large scale immersive virtual reality simulation. One of his partners traps him in the simulation so the partner could take over the project. (Protagonist wakes up in a hospital with no memory, and does not realize he is IN the VR simulation initially) However the simulation city was Philadelphia (not New York City) it was set in Contemporary time. – NJohnny Jul 31 '18 at 1:36

I'm not quite sure but it sounds like Simulacron-3 (1964), a.k.a Counterfeit World, by Daniel F. Galouye.

Simulacron 3 is the story of a virtual city (total environment simulator) for marketing research, developed by a scientist to reduce the need for opinion polls. The computer-generated city simulation is so well-programmed, that, although the inhabitants have their own consciousness, they are unaware, except for one, that they are only electronic impulses in a computer.

The simulator's lead scientist, Hannon Fuller, dies mysteriously, and a co-worker, Morton Lynch, vanishes. The protagonist, Douglas Hall, is with Lynch when he vanishes, and Hall subsequently struggles to suppress his inchoate madness. As time and events unwind, he progressively grasps that his own world is probably not "real" and might be only a computer-generated simulation.

  • Hi there! Could you edit in the elements that make you think this might be the novel the asker is looking for? This would make for a better answer. For instance, you could take a look at this guide on how to write a good story-ID answer. Other than that, welcome! :) – Jenayah Aug 21 '18 at 19:36
  • @thelethalcarrot thanks for the suggestion, not this one unfortunately.... – Paul Walk Aug 23 '18 at 7:49

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