book cover of Chi


(The third book in the Virtual Reality series)
A novel by

The Barnes & Noble Review
In this third novel of a loosely tied trilogy, Alexander Besher continues to make remarkable use of an unusually bizarre fusion of cyberpunk, mysticism, and crime elements. Besher deserves his growing reputation as one of the most unique voices - along with Neal Stephenson and Michael Marshall Smith - currently revitalizing the science fiction genre. Following the success of last year's MIR and its predecessor, RIM, CHI proves that Besher can capably shatter genres and take the reader to a juncture of untamed imagination, philosophy, and incorrigible humor.

It's the year 2038, and the newest offering on the drug market is chi, the very essence of life-force that can now be drawn from unwilling donors and transfused into the rich, allowing them longer lives, better sex, and enhanced intelligence and vitality. In Bangkok, the lord of this drug trade is Wing Fat, a 650-pound transsexual who discovers that another race superior to Homo sapiens already walks among us. From this new race comes a brand of chi more powerful than that stolen from victims on Wing Fat's slave farms; now Fat is adamant about getting more from the mysterious source.

British writer Paul Sykes is drawn into the convoluted machinations when he accidentally witnesses a mutated orangutan telling potential backers about this new turn of events in the chi industry. When the talking orangutan's limited amount of chi intelligence burns out and it dies, millionairess "she-devil" Deedee Delorean performs an autopsy and discovers a microchip that may allow her to corner the chimarket.However, when Paul trips upon the situation and winds up with the chip, he's off and running for his life.

With a friend, Paul is able to hack into the chip using the fauna equivalent of VR/Internet, which allows for telepathic "emails" to be sent between apes. Monkeys are genetically altered and given to the increasing number of childless couples in the world to raise as their own. Returning to the arching story line of the trilogy is Frank Gobi, protagonist of Besher's RIM, who is chasing after the origins of a virtual reality butterfly that flies across China influencing people to be less aggressive. Also reappearing is Frank's son, Trevor, the semimystical hero of MIR, who already knows a great deal more than the other participants about what is really happening. When Sykes arrives in Asia, his own "hot" chi allows him to see a mysterious black sun, and afterward he's capable of spotting the "invisibles" that walk among mankind.

CHI, like Besher's previous novels, is often a disorienting experience, where the disturbing elements of the narrative draw us into peculiar and invigorating pockets of fantasy. Besher's pseudo-hard science originality and provocative milieu whirl the reader about in a dizzying but delightful ordeal. Part of the excitement is being taken aback with the surreal situations the author effectively devises and develops. The reader is never sure what might lurk in the next unusual plot twist.

Nothing is too outlandish for Besher not to toss into this stew of bewildering and exhilarating jolts: plant-world web sites, mutant talking monkeys, psychic email, and giant VR icons seen in the real world are all components of this marvelous tale of dark science fiction with an exceptionally black-humor bend. Besher continues to establish his complex vision of what form a new global cyber reality might take. His marriage of Western technology and Eastern philosophy is not only highly thought-provoking but also extremely fun fare as well. CHI lures the reader in for an always unruly romp.

-Tom Piccirilli

Genre: Science Fiction

Used availability for Alexander Besher's Chi

Hardback Editions

July 1999 : USA Hardback

Title: Chi: A Novel of Virtual Reality
Author(s): Alexander Besher
ISBN: 0-684-83088-4 / 978-0-684-83088-9 (USA edition)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   

Paperback Editions

July 1999 : UK Paperback

Title: Chi
Author(s): Alexander Besher
ISBN: 1-85723-859-1 / 978-1-85723-859-4 (UK edition)
Publisher: Orbit
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

January 1999 : UK Paperback

Title: Chi
Author(s): Alexander Besher
ISBN: 1-85723-682-3 / 978-1-85723-682-8 (UK edition)
Publisher: Orbit
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon AU