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A Point of Honor
In the early twenty-first century, virtual reality is the pastime of choice for those who can afford it. One of the most popular VR worlds is "Chivalry", a VR simulation of the Middle Ages as they should have been. Jousting within Chivalry is a spectator sport with an international following, and Mary Craven, better known in VR as Sir Mary de Courcy, is one of the best professional jousters.
When Mary defeats the mysterious Grey Knight of the Sea in single combat, he cannot pay the ransom, and is forced to award her the deed to a piece of virtual real estate, the manor house of St. Chad's-on-Wye. Within hours, several attempts are made to kill her. Mary is forced to dodge assailants in both VR and real life as she tries to discover who created St. Chad's, and why they're willing to kill her to keep her away from it.
Unfortunately, virtual reality is like a dream sequence in that it's hard to believe that Mary is in any actual danger there. Also, she continues fighting her way back through the VR domains long past the point where any sensible person would have turned off the computer and run straight to the police.
Heydt does present an interesting and plausible picture of distributed virtual realities, not too far removed from the current state of online gaming. The narration is full of classical references and interesting details about medieval arms and architecture. The challenges and chases Mary goes through in VR resonate with Thomas Malory, T.H. White, and the Brothers Grimm.
A Point of Honor would be more successful if it were more suspenseful, but it's an enjoyable blend of science fiction and fairy tale.
-- Christina Schulman.
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