Synopsis: Farside is a virtual world designed for the superrich to live happily ever after their death when they upload their souls into this environment. It comes along with a crowd of subservient attendants, luxury cars, castles, and Steinways – in short, everything that’s needed by its clientele.
The inhabitants’ economy is thriving, even more than the left behind “Liveside”, and it takes away a huge part of the money into the afterworld, while taking away resources like energy and computing power.
The main protagonist Northover finds himself in this environment, and while is well-off, his status is by far not in the range of all the other inhabitants. He arrived in Farside to rebuild a famous band and give a performance with Thea Lorentz, a superstar and former lover of Northover.
Why is he in Farside, what’s his mission beyond meeting Thea?
Review: Star Trek Fans will remember the sixth film “The Undiscovered country“, but MacLeod’s novelette is a direct reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 1):
Hamlet is contemplating death and wonders why we just don’t die to flee this miserable world. The metaphor of the undiscovered country for death is inverted here in the story, because the superrich – and only they – live on in this special form of afterworld.
Death is threatening, and no wonder that the superrich would rather flee to a world they know and have control over. MacLeod gives us a very interesting take of the well established SF trope of virtual worlds combined with immortal superrich.
They even can interact with the world. Theo Lorentz is a philanthropist who asks the other superrichs to invest in good deeds for Liveside in exchange of meeting with her.
Without this Shakespeare reference and the musings around it, I’d have enjoyed the story far less, and I added half a star for it, swinging over to four stars.
Not only is the setting great in this story, but the protagonists are the very life of it, and MacLeod draws them with a strong and mature hand.
The only negative criticism I have is the story’s resolution where I’d have wished for a smoother transition and which felt pressed in a little hastily.
Recommended for readers of transhuman stories who like a notch of social commentary.