by Melissa Scott
Tor, 2000, ISBN 0-312-86802-2
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
A young man, known online by the handle Keyz, has a great desire to be a writer for virtual reality entertainment sites. Unfortunately, his skills are not equal to his ambition. Not one to be daunted by such a small problem, he hacks into the system of the major Hollywood studio his parents work for, and downloads the studio's prize piece of software, an editing program that tells him how to fix his rather pedestrian creation so that it becomes a runaway hit, attracting enormous attention and amazing rumors, and not incidentally the attention of the studio whose software he stole. The studio, alas, has a take no prisoners, shoot first and ask questions later, attitude towards people who hack into its system and steal this particular program. Or rather, its president does; the head of security is considerably saner and would like to offer a deal which would make it not completely stupid for Keyz to turn himself in rather than selling the program and going underground, but the head of security is overruled.
Tin Lizzy, a designer for the website that hosted Keyz' work until it got too hot to touch, somewhat unwillingly and altogether unwisely, decides to help the kid go underground and find a way out of his troubles.
It's utterly unambiguous who are the good guys and the bad guys here, but both the world they move in, and most of the major characters, except the Chief Bad Guy, are reasonably complex and interesting. There's also a good bit of humor, here, and our first introduction to Tin Lizzy, which includes an explanation of the Colors Diet, is almost worth the price of admission by itself.