Adam Griffey is living two lives. By day, he teaches literature. At night, he steals it. Adam is a plagiarist, an expert reader with an eye for great works. He prowls simulated worlds perusing virtual texts, looking for the next big thing. And when he finds it, he memorizes it page by page, line by line, word for word. And then he brings it back to his world, the real world, and he sells it. But what happens when these virtual worlds begin to seem more real than his own? What happens when the people within them mean more to him than flesh and blood? What happens when a living thing falls in love with someone who does not actually exist?
©2009- Hugh Howey (P)2013 Hugh Howey
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally published at Fantasy Literature.
The Plagiarist is a science fiction novella written by Hugh Howey, who recently became famous for his self-published WOOL series. The plagiarist of the title is Adam Griffey, a college professor who uses newly discovered technology at his university to visit virtual worlds where he seeks out brilliant authors, memorizes their works, and brings them back to our world. Everyone knows the works are plagiarized, but since the author doesn’t live in our world, it doesn’t count, and our protagonist gets the credit for discovering the talent and, most importantly, he gets the money for the sales. This sort of plagiarism isn’t just for literature, though. Adam has colleagues in other departments who do the same thing, and now all fields of knowledge — science, technology, art, etc. — are advancing rapidly because of the discoveries made in virtual worlds.
All is going well for Adam — his work has made him famous — until he falls in love with Bellatrix, a woman in the latest universe he’s been visiting. When he goes there, he spends all his time making a virtual life with her instead of doing his job. His relationship with his real online girlfriend is suffering and, of course, so is his teaching and research. Like a true plagiarist, he is “faking his real life so he can live his fake one.” Just when it seems that Adam can’t maintain his plagiarized life any longer, his university announces that Bellatrix’s world is about to be wiped from the servers because it’s taking up too much space. That means that the virtual woman he loves will no longer exist, so Adam goes on a mad scramble to try to save their relationship.
Okay, if I had just read my synopsis above, I wouldn’t even need to read the rest of this review — I’d already be pressing the “buy” button ‘cause that just sounds awesome. But for those who want to know more, I’m happy to report that I loved this story. If Philip K. Dick had lived twenty years longer, he would have written The Plagiarist.
Not only is the plot exciting, but for such a short story (58 pages in the 99¢ ebook, 1.5 hours for the $2 audiobook) there’s a lot to think about: online dating; how spending time in virtual worlds might affect our real lives and relationships; parallel universes; the meaning of art; the way that rapidly advancing technology has led to information overload, mass consumerism, and perhaps a decline (or at least an inability to recognize) genuine talent. And there’s more that I don’t want to tell you about so as not to ruin the plot.
The Plagiarist is a perfect introduction to Hugh Howey. I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Alexander J. Masters. At first I was slightly put off by his stilted cadence, but as the story progressed, I found that it fit nicely.
An interesting sci-fi tale that takes advantage of the idea that universes are layered and at the mercy of the higher levels. Not an uncommon but not uninteresting conceit. At the risk of ruining the story, essentially our hero is a data miner who falls in love with one of these "lesser beings". Decent story.
The reader is the weak point. He is monotonal and lends no drama to what should otherwise be quite a suspenseful story. He seems to plod along as if he is trying to put the listener to sleep, not give a dramatic performance. As a result at several points I considered not finishing the story. Before buying this story I'd recommend listening to the reader and asking if you would enjoy listening to this tone for 1&½ hours.
While the concept isn't wholly original, The Plagiarist is so well-executed and well-told that you don't really care. If you loved Snow Crash, and/or you like thinking about books and their provenance, you'll probably enjoy this little nugget of a novella.
The story is very predictable. I was hoping for a giant twist but it was the typical your world is not real. The narrator did a good job changing voice for characters but I couldn't stand his tone of narration for the story and main character. Its only an hour and a half long and i had to take quite a few breaks just to shake his mono-tone sluggish draw out of my head. I have listened to dozens upon dozens of books but this is by far a voice I don't care for.
Yes I like quite a few of Howey's books but so far none of the narrators have done it for me.
No Thank You!
I paid 99 cents. It was worth it to know to never check out the narrator again.
Interested in mostly history, biographies, autobiographies, classics, and Great Courses...with some Sci Fi thrown in for fun!
This book addresses the future and the thought experiments of this future in such an interesting way. If you wonder what the future will look like with the adevent of virtual reality and a loss of self-awareness in the coming society, get this book.
SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!
I still haven't gotten around to listening to Wool and the other better known works of Hugh Howey, but I did enjoy The Hurricane, and The Plagiarist was the perfect length and perfect price for me.
What a neat surprise, and what a great ending.
I suppose what I like most is Howey's ability to craft a character who is unable to connect to others (other than in a sims environment), yet we are able to feel so much for him. Truly, what a likable protagonist. The way he comforts the love of his life will break your heart.
And the ending! No spoilers, but what a great twist, deftly handled.
This is a well-written book, perfectly edited, the only drawback being some heavy-handed narration that you kinda sorta get used to.
I've REALLY gotta get around to listening to Wool!
The thing is short, a story and not a novella, which isn't in itself much of a problem. There's a little "gee-whiz" gimmick driving the story, and that is given precedence over any of the characters or their relationships, which again is a function of the length. Would like to have seen it spun out longer, and some of the implications of a world like this treated with more than a nod.
As soon as mention was made of the Virginia server farms going down, I knew where we were headed. A little less telegraphing would have been welcome.
The worst thing by far was Alexander J. Masters's narration, by a wide margin the worst I've heard in years of listening to audible books. Flat, self-consciously ponderous, like a late-night comedy sketch's rendering of the Voice of God, or a Vegas stage hypnotist telling some hapless audience member that she is now a ham sandwich. Sped up to twice speed to get through the thing a little faster, you could really hear his endlessly repeating da-da-da-DUM cadence, so much so that I had to return to normal speed just to bear it.
Interesting and unsettling idea. I remember reading years ago some scientist or mathematician claiming that the mathematically overwhelming likelihood was that the world was much as the one Howey depicts here. It's a great idea for a science fiction piece.
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