If you come to my blog often I am sure you realize that I think the simulation argument is extremely fascinating and have written many other posts on the topic. Not too long ago I found a book called Darwinia which deals with this topic, and while reading more about the book I came across other novels that have similar themes. This is where I came across Simularcron 3, the title alone along with the content was something that there was no way I was going to pass up.
Daniel F. Galouye was a science fiction writer from New Orleans who also served as a test pilot during WWII. Something that is interesting is that he only wrote five true novels and one, Dark Universe, was nominated for a Hugo Award and is certainly on my list to read in the future. What I cannot figure out is if all his stories are sequels to one another, or set in a similar universe. I am thinking they are not but hard to tell and I think it may be along the lines of William Gibson’s Burning Chrome and Neuromancer. Sadly Galouye is no longer with us, he passed away in 1976 due to complications from injuries sustained while being a test pilot. His creative genius has been certainly missed.
The story opens up at an extravagant party and the main character, Doug Hall, witnesses one of his colleagues disappear right in front of his eyes. Uncertain how this so called parlor trick was performed by his friend he tries to put the thought out of his head. Soon the authorities are asking him questions about his friends disappearance. Only when he begins to look into the disappearance himself do things really become even more strange. He sees a drawing disappear, a road seems to stop along with the night sky all seem to come to an end at a certain point. To top it off all these strange circumstances are followed by nauseating headaches and vertigo. Later the authorities charge him with the murder of his friend as he was the last one to see him alive. Now on the run from the law, Hall slowly begins to try and piece together what is going on in the world around him, and discovers some very bizarre circumstances indeed.
This one is slowly moving up my list of favorite science fiction novels. It really has almost everything that I find interesting all thrown into one story. There are so many different idea thrown into this one and most are just subtle little inserts, but if you know what the author is talking about it makes for a cool read. There is mention of Descartes Cogito, Zeno’s Illusion of Movement, and theories from Gauss which was new to me so I had some fun looking that one up. All of these ideas are very cool in and of themselves, but having all of them come up in the story is pretty neat.
The story itself is pretty cool, but I think the thing that makes this story really awesome is something that really does not have anything to do with the story. This book was written in 1964, that is a long time ago! Galouye was literally light years ahead of his time in terms of the content of this story. During this time computers were relatively new and the surface, and in terms of their power we were just scratching the surface. What is simple amazing is that he was able to take the idea of the computer and realize that an entire world could be programmed into it. That is really awesome. Not only that but he also threw in the idea of uploading a consciousness into a machine or a computer as well. These ideas are truly ahead of their time and as far as I can tell this was one of the first books to explore these ideas. The other two are The Tunnel Under The World by Frederik Pohl and Time Out of Joint by PKD that also are some of the first to put forth these ideas, regardless still amazing.
A few other things I found interesting on the book itself and the writing style were the length. The copy I bought was only 170 pages, which by all accounts for a scifi novel is pretty short. In general I have read that most science fiction novels are longer because of the unique worlds and technology that is introduced, that more words are needed to describe these bizarre landscapes and alien technology. Galouye is certainly a master of the craft. He does have some wordy paragraphs but they flow so elegantly that they are hardly noticeable to the reader. In my opinion there are no wasted words and no overly described scenes. This book is certainly one of a kind when it comes to the subject matter, but the way it was written exploring this new idea is truly amazing. As I said he was one of the first to write on the topic of a simulated world yet he did not waste any time explaining anything or using pages to set up the scene or the ideas involved. I cannot explain how he did this other than he just let the story flow on its own. Being one of the first to write about a topic I am sure is extremely hard and doing it with such grace is certainly a talent so far beyond mine it is incomprehensible.
There is a very interesting afterword at the end of the copy I purchased by Mike Resnick who is also a writer. This book came out the same year as Stranger in a Strange Land (which is probably my favorite sifi novels of all time) and they were both in contention for an award. Galouye and Heinlein both got votes and in the end Stranger won out. What is funny and almost ironic is that Strange won by 2 votes and later is was revealed that Galouye voted for Stranger. So if he would have voted for himself he would have tied and Simularcon-3 and Stranger would have both won the award.
This is a great read for so many reasons. I highly recommend checking this one out.