I read this sometime in the late 90s, borrowed from the local library. The basic plot was that people couldn't exit the VR sim(s), so the authorities brought in one of the original designers of the fantasy realm (as that's where the trouble started) to get to the bottom of it all. (It was a fairly generic D&D/VR ripoff, but trying to remember it has been bugging me.)

Other bits I remember:

  • There were several VR realms, one of the others was a War sim - a general was mentioned as being trapped there.
  • The main character's class was a bard, whereas normal users could only pick from warrior/wizard/rouge
  • He was forced out of the VR company after creating the fantasy realm, and is reluctant to assist
  • He's introduced in the book at a sword-fighting lesson (possibly fencing)
  • He has a pegasus that's under the illusion of being an old nag
  • He defeats a dragon by lassoing it's mouth shut on it's own fireball
  • He has some root level systems access (a backdoor that he left in for himself), even within the sim
  • The fantasy realm has some partial scenarios based on myths - he escapes from a snow white type scenario on his pegasus (which was depicted on the cover IIRC)
  • VR tech was of the full body immersion tank type, with some sort of neural feedback
  • At the start a bit character has his hand cut off in game, and on waking up can't feel anything in that hand
  • The computer running the sim has achieved some sort of sentience and separated into id, ego and superego personas
  • Someone was suffering from brain cancer IRL, so uploaded himself to the sim and suffers from persistent headaches. His attempts to hack the system from the inside using magic are probably the root cause of the problems.

Any ideas would be appreciated, my google-fu has failed me. (oh, and it's not the Otherland series — that's far more complex and interesting)

  • Some overlap with "Killobyte" by Piers Anthony, although several discrepancies too. The date is consistent though since it was published in 1993.
    – Alchymist
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 13:58
  • Oddly enough that was one Piers Anthony book the library didn't have. I checked the plot description on wikipedia and it's definitely not the book I was thinking of above. (It had simpler, more 1 dimensional characters than those in Killobyte.)
    – Stark
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 16:56
  • One of the other books I read around the same time was "The California Voodoo Game" by Larry Niven & Steve Barnes, however this one that I'm looking for wasn't of the Dream Park series.
    – Stark
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 15:48
  • Not everything fits exactly, but my first thought is Sword Art Online. I'm not sure it was ever a book but a lot matches in a way considering all the manga and episodic series that are available...
    – Odin1806
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 16:36
  • No, this was well before SAO was a thing - I read it in the mid to late '90s.
    – Stark
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 22:08

2 Answers 2


I’m looking for this book as well. I finally remembered that the title contained the word Net. By doing so, I was finally able to find it! It’s called In the Net of Dreams by Mark Simmons. Cover of *In the Net of Dreams*

The Pegasus with the protagonist riding it is on the cover, it talks about multiple worlds the system that we’re made by the protagonist and another lead programmer who plays a wizard, who was now dead from a brain tumor causing headaches, but his soul was in the machine, the bard character is smack on, as well as the class not being able to be chosen, the wizard summons the program and it becomes the id, ego, and superego, and in the first fifty pages it talks about the guy with his character’s hand cut off and in the real world he cannot feel or use it. Pretty smack on.

This should solve both our desire to find this book again!

  • Amazing, thank you! (That's exactly the cover I was trying to describe!)
    – Stark
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 11:13

This sounds similar to the first volume of Otherlands by Tad Williams. Published in 1996, The Golden City has the inability to log off, bleedover between VR worlds, fantasy, historical, and SF VR worlds, and something going very wrong. The primary characters, Orlando Gardiner and Sam Fredericks, are the ones stuck "in world", along with a cast of characters who log in via military "extended stay" equipment to try to solve the problems. One of the characters is San (otherwise called Kalahari Bushmen), and has a name with a click in it.

I found this with a Google search for "1990s immersion VR novel"

  • 4
    It does, but OP did say "it's not the otherland series - that's far more complex and interesting" :/
    – Jenayah
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 19:27
  • Agreed, I read the Otherland series, Donnerjack, and books from the Larry Niven & Steve Barnes Dream Park series at around the same time, and the book I'm looking for wasn't any of those. This unknown book had far less complex themes, and a far more two-dimensional plot. In some ways it read like someone's house role-playing campaign, with an overpowered main character.
    – Stark
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 21:41

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