The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In the future world of the novel, all aspects of society are regulated by a sentient artificial intelligence called Iggdrasil. The principal form of entertainment is the Dream, successor to motion pictures (“flatties”). The sleeping consumer Dreams a programmed plot complete with sensory effects. These are created by professional Dreamers from situations provided by Iggdrasil.

Two Dreamers, Tom Tunney and Susan Bishopric, have been “Conscripted by the Gunmint” (government) to break into an unauthorized Dream created by master criminal Truro Daine. Incarcerated in Princetown Jail for a host of crimes, Daine obsessively had watched film noir flatties. Then, having illicitly commandeered file space from Iggdrasil, Daine created “the City,” a world in which conventions and stock characters from film noir have become the reality in which he lives all the time. Tunney and Bishopric are brought in because the City has expanded to the point that it threatens Iggdrasil’s storage capacity.

Tunney is recruited because he creates Dreams cribbed from film noir. In Daine’s world, Tunney assumes his customary persona, the jaded, wisecracking private eye Richie Quick. When Tunney “goes native,” forgetting his identity outside the City, Bishopric is brought in. Repelled by the sexist assumptions underlying film noir, Bishopric elects to enter the City as herself rather than as one of its stock female...

(The entire section is 427 words.)