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I really need to know the name of this book I read a long time ago! I'm 25. I read a book when I was probably 13-16 years old. I assume it came out around that time because I believe it was in the new section of the library, but it could have been a little older.

I believe it was about a slightly dystopian future where there is a very popular immersive video game and you play it by laying inside of a coffin shaped capsule and basically get matrixed into it.

The main character is a teenage boy I think. You don't die in real life when you die in the game, unless you manually remove a security thing in your avatar’s head. A teenager doing this in order to commit suicide is one of the opening scenes. The main character has a few friends inside the game and somehow they end up trapped on a quest in the game.

In the end, the main character discovers that he can manipulate the game and destroy the bad guys (definitely matrix vibes). Then in the end you find out that the main character is actually an NPC.

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I was trying to remember this book title too! I think it's The Eye of Minds by James Dashner. The summary from Goodreads:

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.

And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.

But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

And the twist you mention about him being an NPC from the Wikipedia synopsis:

.... Michael then wakes up in a Coffin, or a coffin-like enclosure from which the VirtNet is accessed, but realizes that his body and his surroundings are different. He finds that Kaine left him a message that explained how Michael was a Tangent, and that he was the first successful subject of The Mortality Doctrine, which implants Tangent intelligence into human bodies. Michael is also told that since he is now human, his headaches were actually caused by Decay, a condition that results from the deterioration of a Tangent's code. Michael then realizes that he had resided in the game Lifeblood Deep during his time as a Tangent, and when he had entered his Coffin, he had entered the game used by human beings, Lifeblood. He opens the door and meets Agent Weber, the VNS agent who contracted him to stop Kaine, who informs him that Bryson and Sarah are real. He is also told to attempt to impersonate the human whose body he is in.

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  • 2
    Could you edit this to explain how it matches the description given in the question? I.e. why do you think this is what the OP is looking for. – TheLethalCarrot Oct 1 at 12:42
  • I edited in a bit of material from Goodreads and Wikipedia. My apologies if there's a bit much. – FuzzyBoots Oct 1 at 13:44
  • To add to @litzy, there is a security component (called the "core" I think, it's been a couple of years since I last read it). At the beginning of the story, Michael tries to talk a girl out of jumping off the overpass so he could get the extra XP, but then the girl manually takes off her core and destroys it so she could actually die. She says that the main villain "Kane" forced her to do this. – Ishaan Saha Oct 1 at 14:42
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There are a few key differences here, but enough matches that I'm going to make this suggestion anyway:

Could this be Saga by Conor Kostick, sequel to the 2004 book Epic?

Ghost is part of an anarcho-punk airboard gang who live to break the rules. And there's a good reason - their world, Saga, has a strict class system enforced by high-tech electronics and a corrupt monarchy. Then Ghost and her gang learn the complicated truth. Saga isn't actually a place; it's a sentient computer game. The Dark Queen who rules Saga is trying to enslave the people of New Earth by making them Saga addicts. And she will succeed unless Ghost and her friends - and Erik, from Epic, and his friends - figure out how to stop her in time.

The key similarities:

  • Saga came out in 2009, which puts it at just the right release time. (And Epic came out in 2004, so also within a possible range.)
  • Saga takes place in a dystopian near future where society lives their lives inside in a hyper-immersive video game.
  • The protagonist, Ghost, is trapped inside along this game, along with several key characters--including teen boy Erik, who was the protagonist of the previous novel and still has a key role as a secondary protagonist (including POV sections) in this book.
  • While I do not remember 100%, I do believe there is an early scene with a character harming themself in some way by tampering with their equipment.
  • A coffin-like capsule that allows interface with the game plays a significant role.
  • Ghost and Erik both have powers of game manipulation that they use in Matrix-like ways to destroy the baddies, Ghost more so than Erik; and, in the end, Ghost realizes

    She herself is an NPC and a guardian AI for the game, who had her memories stolen years ago after her evil rival AI attempted to destroy her in a bid to take over the game world.

The differences:

  • Ghost is a teenage girl, rather than a teenage boy. (However, Erik, a teenage boy, also plays a role like a secondary protagonist, and since the book is in first person and Ghost's name is androgynous it could be easy to forget the character's gender.)
  • Rather than 'playing' from the beginning, Ghost and the other players are so immersed in the game that they are trapped in that they've entirely forgotten it isn't the real world. However, Erik and his crew of 'non-native players' do know it's a game and do reappear after dying, so you may simply be remembering their chapters.
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  • Thank you for the answer! However, I do believe the book I was talking about is a different one. I saw the cover of Saga and it doesn't ring any bells. The cover I remember was of city building(all glass ones), and It was all greys and blues and pretty generic scifi looking... sorry I dont remember much more :( – thezun Aug 5 at 14:01

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