The best novels about virtual reality games

Ramsey Isler Author Of Ghosts of ARCADIA
By Ramsey Isler

Who am I?

As a geek and tech professional, I've worked on software and gadgets in multiple countries and just as many industries. I'm fascinated by work that leads us to a better future built on technology while being fully aware of the dangers involved if we're not vigilant. I've built websites, fitness devices, and even spent some time working on Wikipedia's data structure. But my first tech love was that strange and beautiful blend of art and science we call video games. I’ve played more games than I can count and created a few of my own, but as a novelist and reader I found myself drawn to books about games just as much as the games themselves.


I wrote...

Ghosts of ARCADIA

By Ramsey Isler,

Book cover of Ghosts of ARCADIA

What is my book about?

ARCADIA was the first gaming platform to offer a complete simulated reality experience using direct brain scans to trick the gamer's senses. It was hailed as a breakthrough; the most innovative invention since the television. It sold out in record time. Then hackers started stealing from users' bank accounts.

Miguel Naciamento, award-winning journalist, has taken on the story of ARCADIA. Determined to find the thieves targeting players, Miguel tackles a mystery that involves an androgynous hacker, a veteran government specialist on cyber-warfare, and even the creator of ARCADIA. As Miguel's investigation reveals the true source of the hacks that brought ARCADIA to the brink of destruction, he makes a discovery that proves ARCADIA has become more advanced than anyone could have imagined.

The books I picked & why

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Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline,

Book cover of Ready Player One

Why this book?

Let's just get this one out of the way early. Steeped in 80s gaming and pop culture nostalgia, Ready Player One cemented itself as the quintessential VR gaming book for a whole generation. The story is light on deep technology details but full of delightful references that retro geeks are bound to appreciate (I'm a child of the 80s so I was hooked). It is also a somewhat hopeful dystopian tale that shows how the fictional worlds we love can give us the tools we need to fight real threats.


Heir Apparent

By Vivian Vande Velde,

Book cover of Heir Apparent

Why this book?

I first read this book back in 2004 when I was spending way too much time with MMO games. This YA novel is certainly a product of a time where the tech of today was within sight but social media and smartphones didn't exist as we know them now. But the story more than makes up for this unfortunate timing with its witty characters, a structure reminiscent of the old Choose Your Own Adventure books and a fantasy game setting that leads this book to cross genres. I’m a big fan of sci-fi stories that follow the “Groundhog Day” structure like Returnal and Edge of Tomorrow. Do-overs are a crucial part of gaming and this novel builds that idea into its core premise while adding a unique twist.

Warcross

By Marie Lu,

Book cover of Warcross

Why this book?

Spies, hackers, VR eSports, and exciting action scenes in stunning worlds. This book has it all, plus a little bit of romance. I love stories with diverse casts and this novel delivers that and a plot that moves with relentless purpose and intrigue. The ending is a tad abrupt but leads in perfectly to the equally fun sequel, Wildcard.

True Names

By Vernor Vinge, Bob Walters (illustrator),

Book cover of True Names

Why this book?

This one doesn’t involve a game in the traditional sense but indulge me for a moment. Imagine an online world of subterfuge and countermoves where the stakes are the revelation of your true identity and the loss of your freedom. It's a world where digital avatars mask influential hackers determined to bring down real-world institutions, and the manipulative games they play against each other aren’t for points or pride, but power. This is the world of True Names, arguably the first book to lay the foundations of cyberspace fiction. This short 1981 novella is like an ancient artifact reflecting the beginnings of a major shift in civilization. Although some of the tech references are so dated many readers won't even recognize them, a lot of the concepts were far ahead of their time.

Slay

By Brittney Morris,

Book cover of Slay

Why this book?

Representation matters in popular fiction, and few pop stories showed that better than Marvel’s Black Panther film. Slay is often described as "Black Panther meets Ready Player One," and it's easy to see why. Ready Player One had a brilliant game creator who modeled his world after the culture he was raised on, Slay has similar elements, but in this unique novel the creator of a popular VR game is an African-American high school girl just trying to create a space for her and others like her. Steeped in Black culture in a way that feels accessible but genuine, Slay offers a different perspective on the genre via strong elements of mystery, anti-racism, and healthy doses of tech nerdery.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in virtual reality, hackers, and video games?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about virtual reality, hackers, and video games.

Virtual Reality Explore 20 books about virtual reality
Hackers Explore 8 books about hackers
Video Games Explore 48 books about video games

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Song for a New Day, The Land, and Opening Moves (The Gam3 Book 1) if you like this list.