Otherland.

I finished the third volume to Tad Williams’ Otherland series. I think I averaged 100 pages per day since I only started reading the book last week at about this time. Gosh, that’s a lot of pages.

With Otherland, the idea that immortality and godhood can be achieved via cyberspace makes me want to read all 3,100 pages of the four-book series. I like the characters, too: Renie Sulaweyo, the African professor of cyberspace programming; Xabbu, an indigenous “Bushman”; Martine, a reserved, self-reflective Frenchwoman; Orlando Gardiner, a young boy with a terminal disease that speeds up his aging; and Sam Fredericks, Orlando’s best friend who turns out to be a girl with a boy persona in virtual reality.

At the end of the third volume, after fighting death for so long, Orlando dies fighting against one of the Grail Brotherhood (Brigadier General Daniel Yacoubian). To read that he dies 1,000 pages before the story ends made me very sad. He was such a central character for the first 2,100. Why not let him survive until the end?

The plans of the Grail Brotherhood and The Ceremony were mysteries that were finally revealed at the end of the third volume. The Grail Brotherhood’s agenda was to develop a system that could make and house a duplicate version of themselves – exact copies of minds, memories and personalities – and live for an eternity via that virtual mind on a virtual reality network. The operating system is what’s called “the Other,” and all those copies would be housed in what’s called the “Otherland”. In this virtual reality network called Otherland, that copied persona will have godlike control over the worlds its “original” created. These lifelike worlds are populated by both real people who logon to the Otherland network and by “Puppets” that are indistinguishable from actual human beings. The Ceremony, then, was where the members of the Grail Brotherhood would “turn on” their online replicas and kill their real life bodies to make sure there was only one version of themselves.

Unfortunately, The Ceremony was botched. All of the Grail Brotherhood died without a replica, except for those who survived by treachery. The founder and leader of the Grail Brotherhood, Felix Jongleur, suspected something might go wrong when another member, Jiun Biao, voiced his concern. So, Jongleur enlisted the help of Robert Wells, another GB member who had an alternative should the operating system fail. It did fail because John Dread compromised it.

In the final volume, Renie and her gang team up with Jongleur to fight John Dread.

Considering the Grail Brotherhood had decades to prepare, I am surprised they did not find an alternative to killing themselves prior to turning their replicas on. Why not authorize their own deaths only if the replica was flawless? For instance, the replica should live as it would in its virtual capacity for several years while the real-life body is put in a state of stasis. Once it is proven that the replica can indeed live a virtual life, then the real body in stasis could be “unplugged.”

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