Also by this author: The Promise, The Drummer Boy, Sinner, Green, The Dream Traveler's Quest, Into the Book of Light, The Curse of Shadownman, The Garden and the Serpent, The Final Judgment, Millie Maven and the Bronze Medallion
Published by Scripturo on April 2021
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Buy on Amazon
The discovery of two teenagers ritualistically murdered in a secluded Austin park outrages a nation already on the brink of tearing itself apart. The victims are the latest in an epidemic of deaths linked to a mysterious, underground virtual game known only as Play Dead.
The forensic evidence soon points to Jamie Hamilton, a brilliant yet naive young man on the autism spectrum. But Angie Channing, a world-renown true crime writer, isn’t so sure. Could such a seemingly innocent person be capable of clinical brutality? Why the rush to silence him? What secrets are hidden in the world of Play Dead that were worth killing for? What if Jamie is the key to something far more sinister?
Angie quickly finds herself in a relentless game of cat and mouse that threatens far more than just her sanity or her life. How far will she go to uncover the shocking truth? Enter a psychological thriller ripped from tomorrow’s headlines that will haunt you until the last page. It is said that nothing is as it seems in the halls of power and that some truths are far too dangerous for the common man.
A thoughtful mind-trip of a thriller, Play Dead is the Dekker novel you’ve been craving. It’s been two years since Ted Dekker’s last non-children’s book and nine years since his last real solo thriller. It’s not that Dekker’s been silent—his career simply shifted to a new phase as he worked on a number of passion projects to resounding success. But there’d been a story stirring within him. One he’d been working on for a long time. One that finally clawed its way out. And the result is Play Dead.
The story takes places in a believable near-future maybe thirty years from now where virtual reality tech has made the virtual world almost indistinguishable to the real world. If entertainment has always been used as escapism, that’s almost literal now as VR opens the doors to new worlds, new experiences—even new realities. Which only begs the question: What is reality?
A thoughtful mind-trip of a thriller, Play Dead is the Dekker novel you’ve been craving.
Dekker’s obsession with alternate realities is no secret. Go back to his oldest works, which always promised to give readers a peek “behind the veil” into the supernatural. Or consider the Other Earth of The Books of History Chronicles. Or even the virtual reality world of Skin. Dekker’s entire career has been about using fiction—a type of virtual reality—to talk about what’s really real in our own world and cause us to question if our notions of reality and how we experience it are correct. What if, Dekker asks, there’s more than just this?
At the center of the book is Angie Channing, a world-renowned journalist and author known for her work in virtual reality. When two Austin teens end up dead and a third—Jamie Hamilton—is accused of the murder, Angie thinks there might be much more to the story. It leads her on a journey in both this reality and the virtual one that uncovers a massive secret that could drastically impact both worlds.
Also at stake is the grander societal issue of such immersive VR. Society has blamed video games for all sort of evil since the invention of video games, but with technological advancements allowing deadheading—VR giving a complete sensory disconnect from reality—a political and social battle is brewing that pinpoints deadheads as the reason for society’s problems. Combine with that a secretive billionaire who sees virtual reality as a chance to solve the problems of this reality and you have a rich world with complex characters who all have their own motivations for their actions and beliefs.
A wild techno-thriller with Dekker’s signature philosophical twist.
Can virtual reality affect actual reality? Is our perception of reality actually real? Play Dead is a wild techno-thriller with Dekker’s signature philosophical twist. I make it sound like this is heady, intellectual tome where characters soliloquize in Sorkinesque dialogue, but the truth is that Dekker couches all of these things in an engaging, action-packed adventure. I just can’t say much about the story without giving too much away. Better to experience it first-hand.
Fiction allows readers to explore truth in a way they might not otherwise experience. It’s virtual reality that taps into our beliefs and experiences in this reality. Play Dead is a sort of meta-narrative about fiction in that way. Dekker asks us to consider the effects of virtual realities—of fiction—in our lives, then asks us if anything about that fiction changes anything about our current reality…or even points us toward a different reality.
Play Dead is weighty—if you choose to read it that way. You can stay on the surface and enjoy it as a psychological thriller and that’ll be just fine. Or, you can strap in and dive deep into Dekker’s virtual reality world, engaging with intense and important questions about the nature of reality, the nature of life, and, perhaps, even the afterlife.