At the start of the new year I received a review copy of David A. Ross's new novel, The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans. I announced the release and put the book on my to be read pile. The author asked me to provide a review by March 31 and I’m happy to say I’m reporting in over a month early. Once I started reading, it went quickly because I enjoyed the premise so much.
Our narrator, Fizzy Oceans, is the digital alter ego of Amy Birkenstock. While Amy, a medical clerk, is stuck in her office in Seattle, Washington, Fizzy resides in a virtual world and can go wherever she pleases. She’s able to visit places like ancient Babylon and Pompeii. She meets people such as Gandhi and Mark Twain. Anything is possible in her cyber world.
It’s a strange and intriguing story. It may sound like science fiction but the author incorporates technology that’s available today. I tend to live vicariously through characters in books, my own and other authors. It’s not a stretch to think someday I might have an exciting adventure through an avatar.
The book is well written and tackles some thought-provoking topics such as conservation and global warming. Sometimes it gets a little preachy but the author knows how to lighten the mood. He gives Fizzy a smart, yet playful persona and there’s even a bit of virtual sex in a place called the Sex Dungeon.
This book is not for everyone, but if you like stories of time travel, history and virtual alternate worlds, you will probably enjoy Fizzy’s adventures. Enjoy the excerpt below. This one is definitely worth a read. Who knows, we may all have a Fizzy Oceans in our future.
Meet Fizzy Oceans—archivist, researcher, environmentalist and adventurer. On her travels she witnesses The Exodus, the Battle of Gettysburg and Hurricane Katrina, as well as many other historical and real time events. She meets notable individuals including Gandhi, Mark Twain, Jacques Cousteau, The Dalai Lama, Saddam Hussein and even a new species called the Quinngen.
Such unique experiences and encounters spanning the world and time as we know them would not be possible for a single individual—especially not for a woman named Amy Birkenstock who works as a medical clerk in Seattle, Washington—but Fizzy Oceans, Amy’s digital alter ego, is not in Physical Life. She lives, works and travels in the virtual world where the dead are very much alive, places like ancient Babylon and Pompeii have been reconstructed, and with the click of a button—WHOOSH!—one is transported throughout the Ages to events and destinations that make up our human history.
Even as Amy’s physical life existence is challenged by encroaching environmental disaster, economic instability, and societal breakdown, Fizzy’s virtual world offers instant realization of vision and inspiration. The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans imagines the bridging of two worlds—the literal and the metaphorical—and questions what it is we have created, what has been lost, and what might be possible for us as individuals and for the Human Race.
Available at Amazon:
Also at: Open Books
Just In Case Anybody Out There Is Listening…
HI! MY NAME IS FIZZY OCEANS—at least that’s my emulation’s name here in VL (Virtual Life). I’m an official VL greeter. Let me offer you this welcome package. I’ll just place it in your cache, where you can read it later, at your convenience.
“Where am I?”
“Ah! I see you don’t have an emulation yet. Or a name…”
“What’s an emulation? Am I going to need one?”
“Oh, yes, my friend. You certainly are going to need one.”
Look! I became a citizen in Virtual Life about a year ago, and these days I spend most of my time here. The first time I logged on to VL, I was like you: uncertain, disoriented, and skeptical. I thought it was very strange here, but really fascinating, too. All these caricatures with strange names walking around in animated environments. I thought to myself: “What a bizarre game!”
But VL is not a game at all, that’s the really interesting thing about it. In some ways it’s exactly like Physical Life, but in other ways it’s totally different. If you like, I’ll show you what I mean.
Of course anybody can log on to Virtual Life. And it’s free to register, too. There are already millions of people in VL. They live in every country in the world: America (like me), Canada, Australia, and South Africa. I’ve met lots of people who live in Europe, and I have VL friends who live in Columbia and Japan and Israel and China! I even know one guy who says he lives in the remote mountains of Greenland! His emulation is called Igloo Iceman, and he tells everybody he meets in VL about how it’s getting warmer than it used to be above the Arctic Circle, and about how these days he sunbathes beside a lake that used to be a glacier. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s transfer to the Hothouse (Orientation Center) and I’ll show you what my life here in VL is all about.
Once you’ve registered, the first thing you’ll have to do is to create an EM (emulation). An EM is a digital representation of you—a body, so to speak—so you can walk around and interact with other seedlings (Virtual Lifers). You might construct your EM to look similar to the way you appear in Physical Life, but you don’t have to. You can make your EM look any way you want it to look. You can be male or female, young or old, white or black or somewhere in between. You can have long hair, short hair, or no hair at all. You can have a tattoo. You can change your eye color every day if you want to. And you can dress very creatively in VL, because most of the rules and regulations in PL don’t exist in Virtual Life. (PL stands for ‘Physical Life’, which used to be called RL, or ‘Real Life’, until those of us in VL came to the realization that there was actually nothing any more real about what we have come to call ‘real life’ than other dimensions in which we exist, such as ‘Virtual Life’, where we are now, and NL, or ‘Natural Life’—not to mention FL, ‘Future Life’.) Here in VL we’re not defined or bound by our limitations, physical or otherwise, and we’re not prisoners of our expectations, or the expectations of others. In Virtual Life we can even fly!
One thing that is the same in VL as it is in Physical Life is that we have money. It’s not dollars or euros or yen. In VL the money is called greenshoots. The consortium that created Virtual Life, Seedbed Studios, named the currency. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is that we create your emulation so you’ll look good when you go out to meet people. Let me give you a thousand greenshoots to get you started here in VL. Don’t worry; it’s okay. Here lots of people give stuff away.
So, what are you going to call yourself? Or more specifically, what are you going to call your EM? Right from the start it’s easy to confuse VL with Physical Life, I know. But you’ll get used to that. After a while, you’ll barely notice which world you’re in. Which is more or less the point, isn’t it? Because in VL there are no rules concerning names, and the possibilities are endless. Here you can be the person you’ve always wanted to be, the one you always knew you were! Are you male or female? Are you light or dark? Are you kind and helpful, or mean-spirited and sarcastic? We’ll find out about that in good time, but for now, what will your VL name be?
Ah! Kizmet Aurora. What a splendid name! An EM is born.
Now, what about your gender: male, female, or somewhere in between? In Virtual Life it won’t really matter. Here we’re dealing with something more elemental. Emulations are only symbolic representations to give us a point of reference. In Virtual Life, everything is symbolic: the cities and villages, the landscapes and buildings, the weather, the clothes, the food… None of it is real, at least not in the PL sense. Yet, in another sense, it is even more real than PL. Anyway, you should fashion your EM however you choose—your skin, your hair, your make-up. Construct a man’s body or a woman’s body. Or a eunuch’s, I don’t care! Here in Virtual Life, I know an eleven-year-old kid (or a displaced American nun) who lives in Bolivia (or Brazil) and who walks around VL in the body of a hundred-year-old man. His EM’s name is Omar Paquero. What kind of craziness is that, Kiz?
Virtual Life is a big place. It has hundreds of smaller communities within the greater Virtual Life system, and it would not be possible to visit every VL community, let alone every establishment. In that sense it’s like Physical Life, you have to pick and choose. We connect with others and form relationships as a result of common interests, or through other friends we meet; but just as it is in Physical Life, whom one meets in VL is at least in part a matter of chance. Just as I do in PL, I have a core group of friends here in VL. I have my favorite places too, who doesn’t? I spend most of my time while logged on to VL at a place called Lit-A-Rama. I first decided to explore the REP (Replica) because in Physical Life I’m a voracious reader. What I found there was a community of VL literati. The first EM I met there was Crystal Marbella, and because we had common literary interests, Crystal and I became friends. Together we rented a VL shop that we now call Open Books. We publish classic literature (books no longer protected by copyright and now in public domain) on the worldwide web—books like Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as well as many others—and we offer them free of charge to anyone who wants to read them. By republishing these books on the Internet, Crystal and I feel that we are doing something to preserve literature at a time when other media—media that is perhaps more glamorous or more compelling in the twenty-first century—threaten to obscure such timeless tales in favor of what? Stories that are devoid of any symbolic value whatsoever? Linear legends in living color whose messages are decidedly black and white? Redundant presentations devoid of metaphor that numb the mind into a smug and self-satisfied complacency so enveloping and so insidious that human behavior begins to mimic such mundane stories? I think you can see, Kiz, why Virtual Life had to be created. The culture cried out for it—not in its everyday voice, but in the voice that once moved shadow over the Face of the Deep. Which goddess was it, anyway, that first created Natural Life? Ki? Gaia? Moria? Caillech? I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about that, about NL, a bit later, but what I’m saying here is that the same creative force that made the world we have always known has also created Virtual Life. Of course the reasons are complex and the implications profound. That’s what we’re here to experience, Kiz. But first we have to create your EM. So I want you to right click your mouse, that’s it! Don’t be timid. Open your menu. It’s time to begin your Virtual Life.