There is a difference between Arnold Schwarzenegger and the British Indian actor who plays an astrophysicist in The Big Bang Theory. And that’s why the Austrian-born American was so successful in 1990 with Total Recall while the latter is now making big money with a sitcom. But let’s imagine that somebody wrote a book completely dismissing the difference, the result could very well be Virchol.
The first third of the book feels like a compilation of movie trailers:
We meet Aakrit, the bland protagonist, in his apartment. His life is boring and monotonous and he has a home assistant artificial intelligence named Kate that takes care of all his domestic needs.
After all, he did have everything that one would ever need: his own house, a hovercar, the latest gadgets and a well-paying job with a reputed bank, everything but a girlfriend. Yeah, that is one area that required attention. ‘Maybe all I need is a vacation,’ he said to himself, ‘a break from this routine, something that would recharge me and make me feel a little positive about myself.’
So he decides to try Virchol, which stands for virtual holiday. A product by a megacorporation known as Recorp. I know, Virchol looks misspelled – the author, a market researcher by profession, does explain that. But the explanation never quite convinces Aakrit, or me.
So he takes a virtual holiday. And where does he go? To Mars as in the original “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”? To the Far West to have a gunfight with Yul Brynner Westworld-style? No, he goes to take a walk down the streets of a nearby city.
He buys some food from a street vendor and nearly chokes on it when he sees a pretty girl. By some coincidence her name is also Kate, to his delight. Better yet, she asks him to accompany her while she goes shopping! Predictably, “Aakrit followed the girl like a puppy.”
When he’s back home he is embarrassed to mention his virtual girlfriend Kate in front of his home assistant AI Kate.
Dreamscape, Control Factor, Inception…
Then one day three uniformed people come to his apartment and take him away. He’s been recruited by the government to infiltrate the mind of the leader of an enemy nation. Apparently, they have detected that he has a heightened telepathic ability that when combined with Virchol will allow him to peep into other people’s dreams.
After this there are some training scenes and several “as you know” lectures before the “cyber war” begins.
One of the problems with this book is that it’s never been proofread. And it’s not just the usual typos. Numann has a problem with verb tenses in many subordinate clauses.
None of this would have happened if he had just done the usual things he does on Sundays.
Aakrit woke up expecting to hear Kate’s voice telling him his coffee is ready.
After a quick round of introductions the six of them discovered that they’ve all had exactly the same experience.
If there was one person that Edwin feared, it was his father. But in this case he rebelled against his father’s wishes and told him he doesn’t need his help in getting the hovercar, he would do it himself. His father finally gave in, partially, and told him that if he wants it he would indeed need to arrange it himself; Ricard will have nothing to do with this transaction.
Another problem is that once the action begins Numann dwells for a long time on one side of the war and then drags his prose through the other instead of dovetailing the scenes with lively action-and-reaction sequences.
Unsurprisingly, the bravest thing Aakrit does during the war is whining at the enemy.