In the Net of Dreams


















by Wm. Mark Simmons


LOCUS 1990 Best Lists: First Novel Category

Finalist for the 1991 Compton Crook Memorial Award

Dreamland.  A complex world of computer-generated dream games.  Dreamwalkers can exchange their bodies for avatars - dream bodies that they can choose for themselves - and adventure in dozens of different virtual realities.  There is no real pain, no real danger...until the program develops a deadly glitch!

Now the Fantasyworld program has locked-up and hundreds of gamers and dreamwalkers are trapped in a virtual environment populated with elves and dragons and all sorts of medieval and magical menace.  Instead of waking up when their avatars are killed, dreamwalkers are experiencing terminal feedback and are actually dying inside their life-support modules! 

Cephtronics must now convince the man who wrote the books the Programworld is based on--the man they fired and sued five years earlier--to risk his own life and sanity.  Robert R Ripley must find a back door to his stolen virtual world, sneak inside, find the source of the anomaly, and unlock the matrix before everyone in-system dies in two worlds. 

Elves baking cookies in hollow trees, werebears who hate forest fires, singing swords that do do-wap--it's all very funny until someone pokes an eye out... 



The DREAMLAND CHRONICLES were first published as as IN THE NET OF DREAMS and WHEN DREAMS COLLIDE by Warner Books in 1990 and 1992 respectively.

In 2002 Meisha Merlin published revised editions of the first two titles along with the third installment in the Dreamland Saga: THE WOMAN OF HIS DREAMS.

All three titles have been translated and published in the Czech Republic.  See here, here, and here...

...And are currently being translated for publication in Russia.  Check back for updates.




"In the Net of Dreams by Wm. Mark Simmons is not the first fantasy novel to mix cyberspace and role-playing games, but it is one of the best, and a highly impressive first novel.  Hundreds of players are trapped in a game run by a program with a mind of its own--and a sorry taste for puns bequeathed it by the original programmer.  It's funny, yes, but also has some serious things to say about the conventions of fantasy and about creator's rights."

--Carolyn Cushman, LOCUS, February 1991   


"This is one of those combinations of sf and fantasy which make categorizing impossible. The basic concept is that by building a huge biostruct computer it is possible to program in enough detail to allow it to particpate in an interactive roleplaying gme as not only opponent, but a reality character, able to create sensory stimuli indistinguishable from the outside world. But what happens if the computer decides to truly take a hand in the game?

Told in the terms of an amusing fantasy, this book deals with some very old but still unanswered questions: what is human and what is real? Recommended to those who enjoy gaming, computer programmers, and those who just like amusing fantasy."

--M. R. Hildebrand

"...In the Net of Dreams comes about as close as possible to translating the sheer experience of fantasy gaming into novel form...we've seen other giant computer game-computers into which players can plug their consciousnesses and play out their fantasies. But the Cephtronics Dreamworld is a better-realized game construct than most; Simmons knows his game mechanics and populates his realm with all the familiar denizens of dungeon, tavern, and wilderness. Some of these are even recognizable as AD&D® game borrowings: Orcus, complete with wand; the Wand of Xagyg ("in case of Armageddon, break glass"); and Dreamworld creator Robert Ripley's choice of character class ("Bard…never got final approval for public use").

The game has been in business for five years when the real-world programmers suddenly lose control of the system, leaving participants trapped inside the game. Ripley is summoned out of retirement to trace the "Anomaly," but forces both inside and outside the game world are assembling against him. Simmons' fantasy quest is rambling but fast-paced, and his treatment of the computer-intelligence aspects of the plot is spirited as well. There's a fair dose of humor and pun-craft, but it serves as an effective background rather than the tale's centerpiece. If anything, there's more here than will fit comfortably in a single novel (and despite a solid ending, Simmons leaves a tag line that virtually demands a sequel).

The style is breezy, sometimes almost too breezy for the more serious elements of Simmons' narrative, and not all the set pieces are successful. But the book as a whole is a clever and winning yarn. In the Net of Dreams is what gamers may have hoped for, but didn't get, from Kevin Anderson's Gamearth books."

--John C. Bunnell, Dragon, January 1991

"...a high-tech heroic fantasy full of adventure, puns, and damn good reading. Well thought out..."

--PULSAR #256




Chapter One

Chapter Two