Hannon Fuller, l'inventeur du Simulacron 3, un simulateur d'environnement total, vient de mourir dans un accident. Douglas Hall, son assistant, le remplace tout naturellement. Il va vite s'apercevoir que les projets d'Horace P Siskin, le président de la REACO, propriétaire du Simulacron 3, ne sont pas aussi désintéressés que celui-ci le prétend. Et peut-être la mort de Fuller n'est-elle pas accidentelle ? La disparition du chef de la sécurité de l'entreprise et de notes secrètes laissées par l'inventeur semble confirmer cette hypothèse. Douglas Hall est bien décidé à découvrir la vérité sur toute cette histoire.
Daniel Francis Galouye (11 February 1920 – 7 September 1976) was an American science fiction writer. During the 1950s and 1960s, he contributed novelettes and short stories to various digest-size science fiction magazines, sometimes writing under the pseudonym Louis G. Daniels.
After Galouye (pronounced Gah-lou-ey) graduated from Louisiana State University (B.A.), he worked as a reporter for several newspapers. During World War II, he served in the US Navy as an instructor and test pilot, receiving injuries that led to later health problems. On December 26, 1945, he married Carmel Barbara Jordan. From the 1940s until his retirement in 1967, he was on the staff of The States Item. He lived in New Orleans but also had a summer home across Lake Pontchartrain at St. Tammany Parish in Covington, Louisiana.
In 1952, he sold his first novelette, Rebirth, to Imagination and then branched out to other digests, including Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Between 1961 and 1973, Galoyue wrote five novels, notably Simulacron Three, basis of the movie The Thirteenth Floor and the 1973 German TV miniseries, Welt am Draht (directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder). His first novel, Dark Universe (1961) was nominated for a Hugo.
In 2007, Galouye was named as the recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, which is co-sponsored by the heirs of Paul M.A. Linebarger (who wrote as Cordwainer Smith) and Readercon. The jury for this award recognizes a deceased genre writer whose work should be "rediscovered" by the readers of today, and that newly rediscovered writer is a deceased guest of honor at the following year's Readercon. Galouye was named 6 July 2007 by Barry N. Malzberg and Gordon Van Gelder, speaking on behalf of themselves and the other two judges, Martin H. Greenberg and Mike Resnick.
This would probably get 5 stars from me had I read it before reading the countless novels and seeing the countless films and TV Shows that have since used the same concept. Even so, this was still a mind-bender, and it compares rather favorably to Philip K. Dick's better work.
It concerns a man, Douglas Hall, who works for a giant corporation that is developing a full-fledged computerized artificial reality in order to study the effects of various types of stimuli on its human analogs. But when Hall begins noticing strange things in the real world (people disappearing and no one remembering them existing except Hall, etc.) he begins to suspect that his own world may be nothing but a computer simulation as well.
This was a blast to the end, with plenty of tripped-out twists and revelations, many of which you could see coming from a mile away thanks to the basic idea being hammered into the ground in more recent times. But that didn't detract a whole lot from the story for me, and I was fully engaged anyway. Though I compared this to PKD, it's a lot less zany than his work. Galouye plays it entirely straight here, which was a nice change of pace for me.
Anyone who digs The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor (which was loosely based on this book), or PKD should give this early example of the "is reality real" concept a shot. There's a 1973 German serial based on this called World on a Wire which is well-respected, though I've yet to see it. I do remember really enjoying The Thirteenth Floor back in the day, though opinions seem to vary greatly on it.
I found out about this novel after watching The Thirteenth Floor, one of my favorite sci-fi films from the 90s, but a film little known or given much fanfare (probably because it was out around the time of The Matrix). Based on the film The Thirteenth Floor, Simulacron 3 is very Matrix-like, a book that deals with the possibilities of dual realities.
Galouye’s novel is a rare gem of a science fiction in many ways. Innovative, creative, and profound, it is a novel that clearly was before its time, a landmark for the “virtual reality” story. In the novel, Douglas Hall is employed with a company that helps produce artificial environments through simulation. Part of the work helps to project what human behavior would be like in a real-life situation; in a sense, the simulation is geared towards creating a more utopia-driven society. The simulation also allows someone to experience a social environment outside of reality.
When Hannon Fuller, one of the heads of the company, dies under mysterious circumstances, it is a red flag to Hall that many things are not as they seem; corruption may exist in the company. Things get more puzzling and foreboding when Hall’s associates begin to “disappear.” As Hall probes further into the workings of this simulator project within the company, he begins to question the elements of illusion and reality, those lines becoming seemingly linked together. To make matters worse for Hall , he becomes a person of interest in the murder of Fuller. Jinx Fuller, Fuller’s daughter, enters the scene, and Hall suspects that she may hold the key to understanding what is taking place.
Admittedly, the story, much like The Matrix or The Thirteenth Floor, becomes murky, convoluted and confusing at points, as we shift from time and place quite often. The story has a way of getting “lost” in itself sometimes. Some of the technological jargon and vocabulary are a bit of a chore to navigate through also, but this becomes easier as the novel progresses.
The mystery aspect to the novel is quite fascinating, though, and it builds as Hall discovers more and more clues about his world.
The themes explored in Simulacron 3 are thought-provoking and deep. One such idea explored is the infiniteness of time. At the heart and core of the novel is the question of what life, being human and existence really are. What constitutes being human? Is artificial reality a form of life? As other reviewers have attested to, there is a paranoid feeling or atmosphere as we discover more answers as the novel progresses.
Simulacron 3 is a novel that really makes you think about possibilities of existence, and it is recommended for any sci-fi fans.
This is a book that deserves--nay, needs--a resurgence in popular culture. Although it was the inspiration for the movie "The Thirteenth Floor," the two share about as much similarity as "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and "Blade Runner." Though for those of you who have seen the film, I offer the additional caveat that knowing the ending and getting there are two very different things. Read it anyway.
What astounded me to jaw dropping proportions about this book is that, published in 1964, it effectively predicted the rise of social networking (Facebook and the like) by decades. The major conceit of the novel is the concept that a person's personal opinions can be quantified as data and used as a commodity to orient a society's future. In the novel, Douglas Hall is the protege of Dr. Fuller, and the two of them are working on "Simulacron 3," a simulated world in which the army of pollsters that clog up their own world would be rendered irrelevant. In this simulation, billboards and adverts would take the place of pollsters, and reactions would be collected, collated, and quantified based on the stimuli provided.
And then, everything gets weird.
Told in the first person narration of Douglas Hall himself, the story constantly asks the reader to question what's real and what isn't, forcing direct confrontations with Cartesian philosophy, epistemology, and the nature of our universe. Ultimately, the narrative poses questions that are impossible to resolve even after the book is over. Thankfully, it also offers the reader some moral opinions on how to proceed in the face of these unanswerable questions. It is a novel not without hope, but not offering any definite solutions either.
While I found many aspects of some of the characters to be flat and not well developed, the farther into the story I read the less I cared about the deficiencies--without offering any spoilers, I will simply state that there are reasons for this opinion. And while the narrative mostly avoids the pitfall of explaining how fantasy technology will work, there were a couple points where the narrative delved into a very brief synopsis of the mechanics involved, which always takes me out of a story. That's a personal issue, however, and ought not dissuade any interested reader from picking up the book.
In addition to being science fiction that creates a futuristic world set in the mid-21st Century, the novel also has strong qualities that would later be labeled "Cyberpunk." Mind you, this is 1964. "City Come A-Walkin'" didn't come out until 1980, and Neuromancer was in 1984. This predates both of those novels by decades, yet retains the same timeless qualities of both, and is equally deserving of space on one's shelf.
Whether you choose to look at the narrative through a Marxist lens, a feminist one, use deconstructive theories, narratology, or reader response theories, this book will offer something to people looking to delve into the minutia of a novel as well as people just looking to enjoy a fascinating story.
So, if you're going to take my opinion on books to read and enjoy science fiction, I highly recommend putting this at or near the top of your list.
3.5 stars. Simulacron-3 is remarkable as one of the early SF novels examining simulation theory, the idea that what we consider reality, or our universe, may in fact be a simulation of sorts manipulated by those populating an "Upper Reality". Conceptually similar to some of Philip K. Dick's favorite recurring themes questioning the nature of reality, the execution here is quite different. Whereas PKD's methods are mind bending, involving drugs, aliens and/or god as well as a deep set paranoia that make you question the reliability and sanity of the narrator, Galouye's protagonist is more firmly rooted in reason and logic. He frequently (often to the point of becoming repetitive) attempts to surmise the strategy and roles of others that may be involved, making the story more effective as a mystery than a thriller. Overall, an entertaining read which I suspect will blow the minds of contemporary readers less than those that had the good fortune to read it decades earlier.
Although the idea that the world isn’t quite what it seems—or even an outright fabrication—is an old one, during the past half-century or so it has been given a whole new lease of life by such developments as cockpit simulators for training pilots for example, computer games and, of course, virtual reality. It’s seriously discussed at scientific conferences and been explored in a whole series of novels and films. But while most stories begin with the view from inside the simulated ‘world’, in Simulacron-3 we see things from the outside. Douglas Hall is leader of a team developing and testing just such a simulation, a whole counterfeit reality-in-a-computer, whose electronic inhabitants have no idea that that is all they are. Or at least, most of them remain unaware of it; occasionally one of these ‘ID units’ does begin to see through it all, to suspect that their world isn’t quite what it seems—and Hall, god-like, then has to decide whether to press ‘Delete’. Meanwhile, he also has troubles of his own: a man disappears into thin air, right in front of him; then a woman vanishes from a locked apartment. Is there something peculiar about his world? Or is this constant wielding of god-like powers affecting his mind, loosening his grip on reality? And (the trickiest part) how does he tell which? Today, this sort of thing has been made familiar through those more recent novels and movies; but Galouye’s book was published way back in 1964 and inspired Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s classic World On A Wire, its 1999 remake The Thirteenth Floor and (so a number of other reviewers here suspect anyway) The Matrix.
Five stars for the worldbuilding and three stars for the story, conventional but still entertaining.
In the year 1999, science fiction fans were fortunate to watch three virtual reality-themed movies: The Matrix, eXistenZ and The Thirteenth Floor which is based on this novel.
At the time I was captivated by this fascinating approach of the movie and I knew that it was based on Simulacron 3, but unfortunately the book was left in the list-of-pending-to-read books-that-you-never-get-updated. Until now.
The fact is that Simulacron-3 was written in 1964 and therefore it anticipated in some aspects what would become known as the cyberpunk movement by 20 years, with a main premise that remains fascinating even today: recently there have been studies like the book The Simulation Hypothesis by Rizwan Virk in which the issue of the novel is raised.
In any case, a recommended science fiction novel that in my opinion should be more appreciated.
This book was recommended by Richard Dawkins on his podcast with Lex Friedman. As it was surprising to hear almost all of Dawkins' recommendations were science fiction novels, it was even more surprising to see this mind-blowing book underrated.
Simulacron-3 is one of about a hundred books I've had for as long as I've been a serious reader. When I got bitten by the reading bug back in 1987 I started to collect books by two criteria: they had to be affordable and they had to be hard to come by. Rather than spend my babysitting money on the then popular books, I tended to go for old books and ones I had never heard of.
As I was collecting the books, often paying a dime or quarter for each, I was also reading books for school and working my way through the library's collection of science fiction and mysteries. In other words, my shelf devoted to my books quickly filled up and I read maybe a percentage of them.
About ten years after I bought Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye my husband and I went to see a fun science fiction film, The Thirteen Floor. Now I'm normally a compulsive reader of credits but I did not catch Simulcron-3 mentioned as the source material. If I had, I probably wouldn't have even remembered that I owned the book. So the book remained unread and stashed with my original 100.
Five years later I decided to register my original 100 with the hope of finally reading them and releasing the books I didn't want to read again or didn't think my husband or children wanted to read. A Bookcrossing friend contacted me shortly after I had registered the book and asked to borrow it, pointing out the connection to The Thirteen Floor. After I got over my surprise I found the book and sent it to her.
Five more years and I have finally read it. Most of my reading commitments are now finished and I have been enjoying a year of reading mostly what I want. Part of that reading for fun is to finally go through that original 100.
Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye begins as a murder mystery set in a computer lab. But it quickly embraces its science fiction setting to explore philosophical notions of reality, consciousness and soul. The title is a pun on "simulacrum" meaning the representation of something often intangible (such as a God). The "crum" has become cron (short for chronograph jobs). The "3" hints at the three levels of reality that Douglas Hall becomes aware of as his own life is endangered.
Things go awry for Douglas Hall when fellow researcher Morton Lynch goes missing and then another colleague, Hannon Fuller is murdered. Hall finds himself accused of both crimes but he has no memory of having committed any crime.
The clues to solving the murders come though from Rien Reactions marketing research based simulator, the Simulacron-3. The ways in which Hall and the other researchers can interact with the Units who "live" in their pre-programmed city would witness the sorts of odd inconsistencies in their reality as the researchers enter and leave the simulation or reprogram the world to try different situations.
As Douglas Hall begins to think he too might be a Unit in a simulation that has gotten so real as to mimic the building of a simulator like that of the real world the book really takes off. I think all my years of playing different Sim games made the book all the more perversely enjoyable. Douglas ends up trying to hide from the creator of the simulator and has the whole world trying to kill him.
My favorite quote from the book comes on page 108: "I couldn't dismiss the incongruity implicit in the need of an immaterial being for immaterial food." It brought to mind a fun evening of Sim torture while playing The Sims.
I've always been fascinated with The Matrix films, because the philosophy or theory behind it is essentially strong and applicable, not in reality of course but in storytelling. The Cartesian possibility of an illusive existence is hardly original, but it gives rise to a fictional world that technology encourages, like Asimov's robot laws.
There was a second film that came out around the same time, called The Thirteenth Floor, with a similar concept. Recently, my friend Erik lent me the made-for-tv movie World on a Wire. Both films originate from Simulacron-3. World on a Wire aired on German television in '73 and follows the book closely, with obvious concessions made for budget (no hovering cars, etc) and stylization.
The theme is existential and for many readers probably disconcerting. More than just the standard deistic angst, Simulacron-3 questions the meaning of existence on a universal and literal scale. Jinx says on p155 "There's no assurance whatever … that material things are actually material, substantial. And as for a soul, who ever said the spirit of a person had to be associated, in degree, with something physical?"
It's not all doom and gloom. It also introduces a few hopeful concepts. One is the idea that a pair of identical people can develop quite differently, even in identical environments. This theme of choice is crucial to the plot of The Matrix in the sequels. In a world of illusion, choice becomes the only individual control, and Hall's choices keep him from becoming like his other self. In this way, Sim3 is really a 'sins of the father' type of story, but with fate and technology playing the bad guys.
Which brings up the fact that this sort of story is not far from being a time travel tale. Jinx is traveling back to a pre-evil Hall, and succeeds in her quest, but in this sense is doomed to repeat history… One more theme that's common is the doubling of characters, or parallels. Some of the parallels are blatant, since there are mirrored worlds. But one that may not be obvious is Dorothy and Siskin as paralleling the Operator and Jinx. At least on a political level, Dorothy is doomed to chase Siskin into his simulacra as well.
There are some little problems with the story. It reads as if it was forced into a novella size. The scene in the woods with the animals seems ridiculous and fantastical, as does the masochistic behavior of the Operator. But overall, this book, written when computers were essentially calculators, is astoundingly prescient.
1. Excellent book with an interesting premise of a world in which a simulation (like what now is called virtual reality) has been developed and the developers of the simulation discover in the process that their own world is a simulation run from a higher reality in the same way, thus they themselves are not any more real than the simulated people they invented. The 3 in Simulacron-3 might be regarded as a pun, in that in the main character world, it is the third model after two that did not quite work out, and that there are three layers of reality in the overall work, the higher reality, the main character reality where most of the story is told that is a simulation run from above, and the simulation invented by the simulated people of the main character's reality inside Simulacron-3.
2. Has many characteristics prized in Philip K. Dick of the same era. In particular, an uncertain and shifting view of reality and relentless paranoia. This goes beyond the constant action flow that is characteristic of genre SF of the period. That basic style is plainly on display in this book.
3. Manages a happy ending without the dreadful "Hollywood Ending" or a Deus Ex Machina. There is a sort of Rabbit out of the Hat quality but it is well motivated by the story premise and development. The story is first person, the resolution depends on the actions of a second person who, for sufficient reason, is not sharing the plan with the narrator.
4. The movie made from it, The Thirteenth Floor, is a very faithful adaptation of the story line and main characters, better in that respect than Blade Runner, for example, that was inflicted with one of the most blatant "Hollywood Endings" I have ever seen inflicted on a good book. Most of the sociological premises having to do with opinion polling, the reason for the simulations, have been trimmed. This is comparable to, but actually less severe than, the omission of Mercerism in Blade Runner, that few complain about. It was the movie that brought this book to my attention. The book is not well known, at least not outside the world of genre connoisseurs, and not readily obtained except at collector prices (at least since the movie came out) of $40 or more (except French language editions). For that reason I bought my first Kindle book (using Kindle on PC, a free download) to get it for about $5.
4a. There is also an even more faithful and much longer adaptation by Werner Fassbinder for German TV (2 parts, 205 minutes total) Welt am Draht (World on a Wire).
5. Galouye is a first rate author in this field but with few works. He died in his fifties, but so did Philip K. Dick would produced more work in about the same life span. He was working similar ground in this work as Dick was in stories like Eye in the Sky (but without as tart a social point as McCarthyism underneath, but rather in this case a critique of pervasive and increasingly invasive opinion polling.) Neither Galouye or Dick have the gift for satirical humor of their contemporary Robert Sheckley or of the later Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.
During the summers of childhood, while Mom and I were up at Grandmother's cottage in Michigan and Dad would come up for weekends and his annual all-American two-week vacation, we rarely got to town beyond trips to the IGA in Bridgman. A trip to the nearest metropolis, St. Joe/Benton Harbor, was a big deal, usually only happening when the car was having trouble. On those rare occasions Dad would always stop at Gillespie's Drugs which, in his opinion, had been serving the best chocolate milk shakes on the planet since his childhood.
It was while at Gillespie's satellite in Benton Harbor, the original having been in St. Joseph, that I picked up Galouye's Simulacron-3, knowing nothing of the book or its author, but being intrigued by the title which I suspected to have something to do with copies or copying.
The novel wasn't great. It wasn't bad either. The idea of a virtual reality, however, was new to me and the idea of realities nested within one another was intriguing.
Years later I saw the first Matrix movie and was similarly intrigued--enough so that I was inspired to write an essay on the matter which is posted here in GoodReads. A year or so later I saw Level Thirteen, another virtual reality film, not so good as the Matrix because much simpler, but still, for me, fascinating. Although I cryptomnesially didn't recognize it at the time, Level Thirteen was based on this novel.
Romanzo del 1964, oggi può risultare ingenuo - i colpi di scena si intuiscono tutti molto prima degli svelamenti -, ma ciò accade anche perché proprio questo libro è alla base di tanta fantascienza che consumiamo oggi. Oltre agli innumerevoli riferimenti sparsi ovunque, ci sono ben due adattamenti filmici: il primo è quello fatto nel 1973 da Rainer Werner Fassbinder per la tv tedesca (Welt am Draht), il secondo è un grazioso film minore del 1998, che magari conoscete col titolo Il tredicesimo piano (film che apprezzavo molto da adolescente). Tra le varie cose ispirate a Simulacron, trovate anche l’episodio The Ricks Must Be Crazy (2x06) della serie animata Rick & Morty.
Il concept ruota tutto attorno alle domande base da porsi quando si ragiona di universi simulati. Le atmosfere iniziali del romanzo mi sono sembrate simili a quelle di alcune opere di Philip Dick, in cui l’ordinario diventa gradualmente inquietante e si palesano infiltrazioni nella realtà esperita dal protagonista. Il romanzo non va molto più in là di così, i personaggi sono tutti piatti, le svolte di trama prevedibili, i cliché odiosi a leggerli oggi. Rimane però il primo racconto a sperimentare con livelli di realtà contenuti gli uni dentro gli altri.
Il est des romans qui, sans être proprement exceptionnels, vous parlent avec une force peu commune. Celui-ci en fait partie, par les thèmes abordés ainsi que la manière de les traiter. La thématique, tout d’abord, ne semble actuellement en rien innovante. Peut-être qu’à la sortie du roman, en 1964, alors que Dick n’avait pas, je crois, écrit ses romans les plus emblématiques (comme par exemple Le dieu venu du Centaure, Ubik ou d’autres), cette mise en abyme de la réalité était novatrice. Sans doute, même, que Galouye a été considéré pendant un temps comme un auteur très novateur. Malheureusement pour lui, la réalité virtuelle est passée par là, et son habile Simulacron 3 a du mal à courir après des oeuvres comme Matrix ou Existenz, sans même parler des innombrables romans de science-fiction évoquant l’impossible différence entre réalité et virtualité. Bien sûr, ce thème reste, et devient même chaque jour un peu plus, d’une brûlante actualité. Toutefois, ce roman a largement vieilli, et le laboratoire hébergeant le simulateur, digne d’accueillir l’ENIAC, n’est vraiment plus au goût du jour. Dans le même ordre d’idées, les cylindres magnétiques à mémoire ne me semblent plus à la pointe du progrès. Cependant, le thème reste intéressant. Malheureusement, le scénario, digne de la quatrième dimension, n’est pas non plus réellement à la hauteur. Même si l’auteur, dans une veine typiquement lovecraftienne(1), espère nous demander si le héros est effectivement paranoïaque, ou si sa réalité n’est qu’une illusion. Bien sûr, le lecteur (moi, en l’occurence) a désormais suffisement d’éducation pour que, lorsqu’un directeur de recherche sur un projet de réalité virtuelle s’interroge sur sa propre réalité, il a bien raison d’en douter. Mais l’auteur ne le savait pas, et insiste donc douloureusement dans une veine qui ne lui apportera que des déceptions. Enfin, le dernier point réellement décevant est la conclusion, dans laquelle le héros se relève, dans une réalité plus réelle, et se dit qu’il est dans la réalité. Ne peut-il pas se demander si, à son tour, celle-ci n’est qu’un autre miroir d’ombres ? Apparement, non. Tant pis pour lui. Bien sûr, cet avis va sembler très dur. Mais ça n’est pas le cas. Ce roman est assez agréable, comme curiosité historique. Malheureusement, il a trop vieilli maintenant, et devrait donc reposer au panthéon des gloires oubliées.
(1) Tout le monde sait en effet qu’il est plus facile de masquer l’apparition d’un monde venu d’outre espace derrière les anodines portes d’un asile d’aliéné que, par exemple, dans une secte sataniste.
Two months after The Matrix hit theaters, a low budget sci-fi movie called The Thirteenth Floor came out with similar themes but less kung-fu. It was of course immediately dismissed as a knockoff even though (A) Hollywood doesn't work that fast and (B) the movie was based upon a book published a quarter century earlier.
I'm one of the few people who not only saw The Thirteenth Floor but actually liked it. Sure it doesn't have mindbending fight scenes, but it does have Gretchen Mol, which is even better.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Another stellar sci-fi work from the 1960's. This first got on my radar because it's the source material for Rainer Fassbinder's groundbreaking 1972 German tele-play "World on a Wire". Upon further investigation, it also inspired "The 13th Floor" and countless other well known works, including The Matrix.
After reading it, I can definitely see why it's so pioneering. It's a superb example of paranoia and characters lost in different worlds. We never know what or who is real and the mystery takes you down to the wire. Galouye's vision of the future is also well thought out and extremely conceptualized. I also appreciated his sense of style and glamor. He makes mention of interior design elements, business technology, food, and transportation. The book is ultimately very political and it was interesting to see that aspect addressed as well.
I viewed the author as a less hard boiled and more romantic Philip K. Dick. This isn't a criticism at all (although I probably prefer the edgier material), because I was still pretty blown away by all the details. Galouye died an early death decades ago but he's left us with 5 novels that all come with very high praise. After this book, "Dark Universe" is the other seminal work. I would recommend this to anyone interested in sci-fi, pulp, 60's paranoia and people who love the idea of "auto-tenders" mixing cocktails on command.
An excellent story that seems a bit odd at first [the type of work the main character is involved in], though it begins to make sense. The setting and time period of the novel are believable, yet seem like alternate hyper-version of our own. The novel was adapted into a film called "The Thirteenth Floor"; good, though very different from the novel. More of a noir-style, mystery, detective, thriller with a bit of romance. Still, an interesting watch [raises questions about the nature of reality, Ghosts in the shell of digital creations that mimic all to well aspects of its creators]. If a copy becomes aware of its nature [that its copy- not special, "real" or original] and feels despair, anger & madness. Is it still only a copy? I think, therefore I am?
Pubblicato nel 1964, ma potrebbe essere stato scritto domani. L'antico dilemma da Platone a oggi: cos'è la realtà? Le ombre sono ombre, o sono esse stesse essenza? E noi, siamo in quanto "pesiamo" fisicamente o siamo perché "cogito ergo sum" e quindi ciò che conta è la nostra realtà cognitiva? Detto così, sembra una palla. In realtà è una fantastica scoperta di un autore e di un testo di fantascienza che è stato recepito recentemente dalla cinematografia. Per inciso, non leggete il risvolto di copertina se non dopo aver letto il libro. Simulacron-3 aspetta i lettori curiosi, e già nel '64 si intuiva l'enorme potenziale economico e politico dell'acquisizione di dati. Big G ha realizzato un aspetto del libro, Galouye è andato oltre.
From the Birth of Cyberpunk Throughout my life, as a media professional, I’ve been drawn to cyberpunk explorations of how deeply our world might be constructed out of the very media we have created. So, I read Philip K. Dick in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s well before “Blade Runner” (1982). I even read Samuel R. Delany’s influential “Nova” (1968). Then, eventually, I was fascinated by “The Matrix” (1999) and its sequels. Those are just a few of my own milestones.
Only in February of this year did I watch Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “World on a Wire,” which he produced for German television in 1973. Although I’ve enjoyed a lot of Fassbinder’s films, I can’t recall this made-for-TV film showing up in this country until Criterion issued a Blu-ray version in 2012. I’d had that Blu-ray on my Criterion shelf for a decade and finally pulled it out in February 2023 to watch. Then, what a revelation! About the same time, on Goodreads, I noticed a friend reading the source novel for that series, Daniel Galouye’s “Simulacron-3,” published in 1964. When I ordered a copy of that book, my copy came with an updated tagline added to the front cover: “The Birth of Cyberpunk.”
I’m fascinated with this because, if you read the extensive Wikipedia entry on Cyberpunk, you’ll find sections discussing “early forerunners” and examples of “proto-punk,” but those references only go back as far as Delany and Dick. Perhaps at some point I’ll log in as a Wikipedia editor and insert Galouye into that article. (There is a separate Wikipedia entry about “Simulacron-3,” which does describe the book’s influence. That article also identifies another cyberpunk precursor, Dick’s “Time Out of Joint,” 1959, which I now want to read as well.)
I’m describing this timeline because understanding the context helps to appreciate the astonishing leap of creativity in Galouye’s novel! The first MOS (metal-oxide-semiconductor) integrated circuits were appearing in the mid 1960s, mostly after Galouye already had published his novel. The first microprocessors came in the early 1970s, which allowed the first home computers to follow. But no one was envisioning the computer-generated, interactive realms Galouye dreamed up until years after that. That’s why early science fiction writers tended to think about what we would call cyberworlds in terms of robots and other futuristic mechanical devices (Assimov’s pioneering “Robot” series is a good example). If you’re reading this and thinking of “Dune” with its merger of mechanical and unseen quasi-spiritual forces, that first novel in Herbert’s series debuted in 1965.
What Galouye envisions in “Simulacron-3” is a computer-generated virtual world so realistic that the people living in it, including the book’s main character Doug Hall, don’t even know they are digital creations themselves. I won’t spoil the plot, because I want to encourage others to read this remarkable novel, but Doug’s struggle to understand his world reveals a number of crucial secrets along the way. And, yes, for fans of spiritual-speculative sci fi, there are transcendental questions raised in this novel to keep you pondering those deeper questions.
When Fassbinder brought this to German television, as usual, he was working on a shoestring budget with his usual troupe of actors. Galouye envisions Doug Hall as a kind of everyman; Fassbinder soups up the main character as the more dashing Fred Stiller. Galouye envisions cars that fly and hover like vehicles in “Blade Runner;” Fassbinder settles for automobiles. Galouye envisions sophisticated ray guns; Fassbinder settles for handguns and rifles. Galouye envisions a world where the most daring public violation of social rules are smoking salons (since no one smokes anymore in his futuristic world); Fassbinder, being Fassbinder, envisions sex clubs. Galouye envisions video phone calls; Fassbinder places tiny TV sets near his telephones. Galouye envisions a quest for one particular simulated person who might unlock the secrets of his world; Fassbinder makes up a completely different version of this quest by casting his friend Gottfried John as a creepy figure known as “Einstein.”
Despite all of those differences, and there are many, “World on a Wire” follows Galouye’s plot scene by scene. While the novel’s basic plot is the outline for the film script, Fassbinder simply couldn’t resist a few of his own flourishes like the scenes in sex clubs that today would be PG rated at best. I’m explaining all of this because some of you may want to start by watching Fasssbinder via Criterion. That’s where I started. However, now having read Galouye’s novel, I definitely prefer the novel to the Fassbinder production. Having never read a Galouye book before, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed his pacing and, to be honest, how much careful logic went into his plot compared with some leaps in Fassbinder’s production that left me bewildered. Galouye realized that such a wildly speculative plot had to be structured like a Swiss watch so that every detail ultimately would make sense. I appreciate his brilliant attention to those details as a novelist. If you decide to start with Fassbinder, and you’re not familiar with his style, I’ll simply say: Hey, he always went for colorful flourishes! His film version certainly isn’t a Swiss watch, but it’s a lot of fanciful fun.
I’m deliberately not spoiling the novel (or the Fassbinder film for that matter) because I really hope other folks will rediscover this early chapter of a world of media that today is commonplace.
I decided to read this book because I love the movie loosely based on it (The Thirteenth Floor). The book was quite different, and, frankly, I liked the movie better (not something I often say), but I did enjoy the book, too. It's a good example of 1960s scifi. The sexism drove me up the wall, at times, and the book often seemed more interested in the science aspect than the fiction part. Recommended to those who like 1960s scifi; everyone else, just go watch the movie.
When I saw "The Matrix" I wondered where the telephones came from. They came from 1964. Didn't even catch it when I read this book the first time, but when I saw the German television version "Welt am Draht" (World on a Wire) it popped right out.
I've always found the idea of simulated reality an intriguing one. Many interesting questions and problems from a variety of disciplines intersect there. A few just off the top of my head: what - if any - are the physical limits of a simulation compared to physical reality? Can simulated people have agency? If they do, are they our moral equivalents? If sufficiently realistic simulations would exist, would you feel threatened in its challenge of the authenticity of your physical reality? Is your reality even physical, how would you know? Does there even have to be a physical reality at all? Is there a substantive difference between your conscious experience and that of a simulated agent? Are we ourselves perhaps based on information just like simulated agents are, where only the medium generating or carrying the information is - insignificantly - different?
This book certainly does not address all of these topics, certainly not in depth, but it does gets you thinking about them. Many different sci-fi works that revolve around simulated reality that I've come across, emphatically utilize the 'different layers of reality' for the purpose of interesting plot twists or other story telling purposes at the macro level. This book, by contrast, focuses a great deal on the philosophical, existential and physical ramifications for individuals closely involved in building and developing a simulator.
This book strikes a very nice balance though, between philosophical and psychological depth, and relatively fast-paced, interesting adventure. It never gets dull or unnecessarily tough; every page is an accessible and fun read. It reminds me of PKD's Ubik that way.
It has to be stated that, as with many sci-fi novels, some of the story telling devices Galouye employs are quite cliche: . However, Galouye has done this so skillfully that I actually enjoyed this rather than found it annoying: .
So it's a fun adventure, but where it really shines is the philosophical content.
If you like to bend your mind and be in awe of just how fascinating the topic of simulated reality can get at the level of individual experience, you should really read this book. It's a good story too, and a thin book, so definitely worth the gamble.
I’ve read the biggies of cyberpunk – Neuromancer & Snow Crash, by my estimate – after the fact, so they seem a bit shrug-ish. I guess they were the shit when they came out, but I wasn’t blown away by either. I’ve found I prefer a lot of the pre-cyberpunk (I read somewhere referred to as the “Old Testament” of cyberpunk) – Samuel Delany’s Nova (characters plug into their spaceships in order to command them), Gravity’s Rainbow (non-human corporate systems have taken over the world after WW2 – really they won WW2), and lots of Philip K. Dick (the world is not what it appears to be, the look of Blade Runner though really that’s more Ridley Scott than Dick). Maybe The Matrix is what has really made the New Testament (Gibson, Stephenson, Sterling, et al) age poorly for me.
I bring this up because Simulacron-3 really gives a great sense of VR before cyberpunk – the world is literally an illusion. I’d actually seen Fassbinder’s World on a Wire that is an adaptation of this novel (why did I think Galouye was French?) and was less than impressed. It’s an interesting experiment for Fassbinder that didn’t quite work for me – I think some of the more recent acclaim afforded it comes from the Criterion DVD release – a beautiful package for sure, and I think there are some great stills/ideas in the movie/TV show, but largely I see why it had never come out in America previous to this issue. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much about the adaptation beyond that it used Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” to good effect. (RIP Peter Green!)
I’ll be honest, I had trouble getting on board with Simulacron-3 – the first almost 100 pages (of an 150 page novel) I had frequent thoughts of “this would be so much better if Dick wrote it” as while Dick’s realities (primarily in Time Out of Joint, Ubik, A Maze of Death, ok a bunch of them) would change in front of his heroes, reflecting a paranoia of the real behind the illusory, Simulacron-3 removes reality from the equation – in 1964! Once Galouye reveals what’s been going on, I enjoyed some of his digressions into paranoia, reality, perception – it just took me a long time to get there. I still can’t believe this was written in 1964 though, and feel it should have a revival.
This actually reminded me of an antiquated version of Greg Egan’s Permutation City – one of his most acclaimed novels that I’ll admit was the one that was most over my head (due for a re-read I think). Egan wrote that 30 years after Simulacron-3 and really gets into the ethics & morality of a projected world (not to mention some extremely complex explorations of mathematics and quantum theory). I guess in some ways this anticipates also a multiverse with realities contained within realities – the mind perceptions of reality vs an external reality. Though VR is still being ironed out (I haven’t tried any of the current VR thrill rides), the parallels between an artificial reality while we communicate via the internet (an artificial reality) and create versions of ourselves moderated through the filter of social media are interesting here. There’s also some other commentary on public-opinion polls in Simulacron-3 that were not explored well. In some ways this is a ghost story.
This is really ahead of its time – I wish the delivery method of its ideas was a bit more streamlined/intriguing and I think I would have enjoyed more than I did.
That was a very pleasant surprise. When I bought this book, I had no idea what the story line was going to be. Little did I know it was the basis of many other subsequent works, including one of my favorite movies, The Thirteenth Floor. Because I'd seen the movie, the book lost much of the surprise factor for me, but the movie was inspired by the book, not the same as the book, so the book was still a new story for me, which I enjoyed very much.
Daniel F. Galouye não figura na lista de autores aclamados do gênero ficção científica como Arthur C. Clarke ou Isaac Asimov. Nem mesmo teve sua obra reconhecida postumamente como Philip K. Dick. E, infelizmente, nem parece correr o risco de vir a ser redescoberto por uma nova safra de leitores aficionados por sci-fi. Talvez seja pelo fato de não possuir a mesma energia narrativa transformadora, o texto denso e complexo dos demais citados. Mas, ainda assim, vale a pena dar uma oportunidade e descobrir sua obra. O conceito de simulacro - de um universo simulado e artificial que imita a realidade - já é interessante por si só. Soma-se a isso uma boa construção de enredo que fisga o leitor de imediato, deixando-o curioso desde as primeiras páginas para conhecer o desdobramento dessa intrigante história, e temos um livro digno de se ter na estante. A narrativa acompanha o protagonista Douglas Hall que se vê confuso e aterrorizado diante da descoberta de que vive em um mundo virtual, falso, que apenas reproduz a realidade, criado artificialmente com o propósito de se estudar a natureza humana. Ainda mais curioso é o fato de a população deste universo simulado ter desenvolvido seu próprio simulador de ambiente. Isto é: um mundo virtual dentro de outro mundo virtual. E isso anos antes de Christopher Nolan lançar seu Inception. Paralelamente, há uma interessante trama política - fator que aciona as suspeitas do protagonista a respeito de seu mundo fake. O conceito de simulacro, aliado ao mote político, levanta questionamentos de ordem moral, filosófica, religiosa e social, alertando para os terrores de um regime ditatorial; o perigo de divergir do senso comum, da opinião estabelecida e imposta por poderosos (mencionando a tortura contra rebeldes); e da ganância que leva um ser humano a querer brincar de Deus. Em suma, reflexões que todo e qualquer bom sci-fi deve proporcionar ao leitor. Um filme baseado no livro foi lançado em 1999 com o título de 13º Andar. Por ter sido lançado no mesmo ano (poucos meses antes) e abordar a mesma temática de Matrix - entretanto, sem o orçamento milionário do filme da Warner Studios - acabou ofuscado e passando despercebido pela maioria do público, tendo chegado diretamente ao mercado de home video no Brasil. Pelo visto, Galouye, mesmo depois de sua morte, permanece sendo um sujeito sem sorte.