The best books on virtual reality

16 authors have picked their favorite books about virtual reality and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of A Song for a New Day

A Song for a New Day

By Sarah Pinsker,

Why this book?

So, this is a novel about a world in which a global pandemic means that large gatherings are illegal and everyone has adapted to life at home in isolation. It was published in 2019, and I read it summer of 2020. I'm not sure I've ever read anything that was this spookily, horrifyingly prophetic. That said, it's also really punk and ultimately uplifting. One of the characters is the lead singer of the band who it turns out inadvertently gave the last public concert ever, and she's trying to revive live music with underground concerts. Another character is the virtual…

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Book cover of Heir Apparent

Heir Apparent

By Vivian Vande Velde,

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…
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The best novels about virtual reality games

Book cover of The Land: Founding: A LitRPG Saga

The Land: Founding: A LitRPG Saga

By Aleron Kong,

Why this book?

The Land by Aleron Kong is the third litRPG on this list, and probably the most famous. Every litRPG uses a few ways to denote progression, but this book has an almost unending series of charts, numbers, rules, and powers for everything. And I do mean everything.

Character growth. Weapon quality. Town building. To career building. Even dungeon building.

Everything progresses. Everything has level-ups. The world is huge, and the events feel extremely epic. This is also the longest series on the list, with books so massive, you could knock a fool out with one.

Definitely worth the time, though.…

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The best progression fantasy books

Book cover of Ready Player One

Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline,

Why this book?

James Halliday is a futuristic Willy Wonka, creating a fantasy world to bring people together, despite his own social awkwardness. Unfocused on his personal appearance and social norms, yet laser-focused on his creation, The OASIS, he has a child-like exuberance that makes him endearing. Like Halliday, I can hyper-focus on projects I’m deeply interested in. His story of shyness and unrequited love resonates for me, as I’ve had a few unrequited loves in the past, ones that in some ways still affect me to this day. What I appreciate about him the most is the things he does are out…

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Book cover of Opening Moves (The Gam3 Book 1)

Opening Moves (The Gam3 Book 1)

By Cosimo Yap,

Why this book?

An excellent Litrpg sci-fi series. The protagonist goes out beyond earth to discover new races and worlds, slowly gain power, and unearth the secret of the ancient race that started it all. He’s just a human, but he’ll change the galaxy in his quest for knowledge.

The best scfi-fi litrpg in my opinion, the character growth is very visible and keeps you glued to the pages as the protagonist struggle to raise himself. Through his eyes, I got to experience unearthing ancient, hidden cultures, find ancient relics, and uncover galactic-wide schemes that blew my mind away.

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Book cover of Wonderscape

Wonderscape

By Jennifer Bell,

Why this book?

This book combines time travel, computer games, and some very thorny puzzles as a group of friends are trapped in a virtual reality game from the future. This isn’t just a simple ‘solve the puzzles to get home’ story, though: there’s something darker going on behind the scenes and as more and more was revealed, I found myself dying to know what was happening. The story is fast-paced, great fun, and different from anything I’d read before.

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Book cover of Tea From An Empty Cup

Tea From An Empty Cup

By Pat Cadigan,

Why this book?

Cyberpunk Noir isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (sorry), and this story is dark and downbeat, with two female protagonists who aren’t especially sympathetic, so readers tend to love this book or hate it. For me, the kinetic writing style, crackling dialogue, and richly-detailed descriptions of cyberspace—as well as the fresh take on the “locked-room murder” (a virtual reality parlor in this case)—makes it a highly-recommended read.

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Book cover of Head On: A Novel of the Near Future

Head On: A Novel of the Near Future

By John Scalzi,

Why this book?

The second in his entertaining detective series in a near future where 2% of the population is paralyzed and has to teleoperate robots in order to interact with the world (interestingly, it was written before the pandemic). The protagonist, Chris (we never are told their gender, making for a delightful guessing game), is an FBI agent investigating a murder and along the way faces the kind of casual discrimination that the disabled undoubtedly face every day. Chris maintains a wry sense of humor through it all, adding an Elmore Leonard or Donald E. Westlake vibe that makes me laugh out…

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Book cover of Lock in: A Novel of the Near Future

Lock in: A Novel of the Near Future

By John Scalzi,

Why this book?

In Lock In, John Scalzi presents a truly unique and complex world, in which a large portion of the population has experienced a virus that leaves about one percent of its victims with a condition known as Haden's Syndrome. Those with Haden's Syndrome are "locked in," and are trapped in a sleep-like, paralysis state. 

About twenty-five years after the pandemic, scientific advancements have allowed those with Haden's Syndrome to interact with the world through surrogates or artificial intelligence. This is one of those books that is so complex that you will just have to dive in and enjoy the…

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Book cover of True Names

True Names

By Vernor Vinge, Bob Walters (illustrator),

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…
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