Trapped in Virtual Reality

Better than Life - Grant Naylor

I version I was reading was actually part of the [book:Red Dwarf Omnibus] which, along with the first two books, also has the script of the original radio play, and the pilot episode that they used to pitch to the TV executives (and as was suggested, at the time TV executives were very reluctant to take on a science fiction show, despite the fact that at the time Doctor Who was a rip-roaring success). Anyway, in the script for the pilot episode there was a line with a star next to it, and the footnote said 'the rest of the line is missing'. Upon seeing this I immediately thought of the ancient texts that I read where you see this occurring fairly often. This made me wonder what would somebody two thousand years from now, after our society had collapsed, think if he (or she) unearthed a casket that contained a copy of the Red Dwarf Omnibus. In fact what would they think if this box contained a bunch of John Grisham novels, along with say, something by Jackie Collins. In fact, if this box contained a copy of Life of Pi, what would they think of our society – would they have this weird understanding of the world that existed before the collapse of our society, and would they actually believe that we had conquered the stars? Mind you, sometimes I have the desire to build a huge underground vault and stock it full of books (and maybe even a computer, along with all of the manuals) for somebody in the future to uncover.


Anyway, I'm not going to answer that question, but if you have any thoughts please put them in the comment section below because I would love to hear what other people would think.


This is how the first book in the series ended:


What harm was one more day? He turned away from the dissolving exit and crunched up the drive to 220.

One more night of that pinball smile.

Just one.

He couldn't leave them on Christmas Eve.

But, of course, in Bedford Falls it was always Christmas Eve …


Lister and the crew of Red Dwarf had found themselves trapped in a game called 'Better than Life' and this is where this book begins. Mind you, the book isn't set entirely in Bedford Falls, just the first part, and we learn how they escape – thanks to the fact that Rimmer has this mental disorder in which he simply cannot accept that anything good can ever happen to him. Mind you, it is not that this is a disorder that he knows, but rather something deep in his subconsciousness, something that he doesn't realise himself, but a reality that will eventually rise up and destroy any joy that he has in his life. This is hinted at in the first book, where we learn that despite the fact that they live in this virtual world where everybody's fantasies come true, the Brazillian bombshell that he married still has an affair with the pool cleaner.


That is the thing with Better Than Life – it is supposed to create a world based on your subconscious where everything is perfect, which means that when you jack into the game you never want to leave. As such while you live in paradise, your body is slowly dying. Of course the writers never consider that people living in such a world could be hooked up to an intravenous source for sustenance, but then again this game is illegal so such facilities basically don't exist. Actually, I remember watching a film once (I can't remember what it was called though) where everybody lived in such a game while in the real world they were sleeping in beds being fed intravenously (no, it's not The Matrix).


The scary thing is that we see similar things happening today, where people log onto online computer games and simply spend their entire lives immersed therein. I remember living with somebody like that, in the days before World of Warcraft (back then it was Everquest and Ultima Online). His fiancée ended up breaking off the relationship namely because he preferred to play Ultima Online than actually spend anytime with her. Seeing this unfold before my eyes sort of put me off the whole online roleplaying phenomena (and the fact that I was never willing to ply the subscription fees – though I did play around with Neverwinter Nights for quite a while, but that had more to do with creating a world using their editor than anything else).


Like the first book in the series, Better then Life contains a montage of episodes from the next couple of seasons. Mind you, I have to admit that reading some of the jokes, such as the joke where Lister and the Cat dream of having an affair with Wilma Flintstone, and then discarding it based on the fact that she would never leave Fred, are so much better when you watch the TV series than when you read it in the book. However, having watched pretty much all of the original seasons, reading the same jokes still gives me a chuckle, namely because I remember the visual jokes from the screen. In fact I simply cannot picture the crew of Red Dwarf without images of Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Robert Llewellyn, and Danny John-Jules (not to forget Norman Lovett) in my head. Actually, I suspect that they intended this to be as such since the books were written after the TV series were released.


Better than life ends similarly to the previous book, in a way that suggests that a sequel could be coming along, and ending it in a way that could leave us quite content. While it is tempting to write about the last section of the book I think I'll leave it at that, namely because if it is similar to this book then the beginning of Backwards is going to go on from the end of Better than Life. I just hope I don't forget some of the ideas that related to this when I get around to reading that book (which shouldn't be too far into the future).