Earlier this week I finished reviewing the galleys for my next novel, 88 Names. I’ve been teasing this for a while, but here’s the official catalog description:
The critically acclaimed author of Lovecraft Country returns with a thrilling and immersive virtual reality epic—part cyberthriller, part twisted romantic comedy—that transports you to a world where identity is fluid and nothing can be taken at face value.
John Chu is a “sherpa”—a paid guide to online role-playing games like the popular Call to Wizardry. For a fee, he and his crew will provide you with a top-flight character equipped with the best weapons and armor, and take you dragon-slaying in the Realms of Asgarth, hunting rogue starships in the Alpha Sector, or battling hordes of undead in the zombie apocalypse.
Chu’s new client, the pseudonymous Mr. Jones, claims to be a “wealthy, famous person” with powerful enemies, and he’s offering a ridiculous amount of money for a comprehensive tour of the world of virtual-reality gaming. For Chu, this is a dream assignment, but as the tour gets underway, he begins to suspect that Mr. Jones is really North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, whose interest in VR gaming has more to do with power than entertainment. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Chu also has to worry about “Ms. Pang,” who may or may not be an agent of the People’s Republic of China, and his angry ex-girlfriend, Darla Jean Covington, who isn’t the type to let an international intrigue get in the way of her own plans for revenge.
What begins as a whirlwind online adventure soon spills over into the real world. Now Chu must use every trick and resource at his disposal to stay one step ahead—because in real life, there is no reset button.
Per my usual m.o., the book is a departure from what I’ve written previously, but it’s probably closest in tone to Bad Monkeys. Much of the story takes place in virtual-reality environments where you have total control over how you look and sound, and since most of the characters John Chu interacts with—not just Mr. Jones and Ms. Pang, but his coworkers and his ex-girlfriend—are people he’s never met in real life, it’s a constant guessing game as to who he’s really dealing with and what they’re really after. That’s about all I can say without getting into spoiler territory, but I think the novel is a lot of fun, and the in-house buzz from HarperCollins has been great so far.
88 Names is due out March 17 of next year. It’s available for preorder right now.