The Xandra Function By Alan Cash.

Based in a dark-edged near future where corporations have become ever more powerful. The Xandra Function tells the story of Fran McCallister, a games designer, who has spent five years developing the most powerful virtual reality game ever created.

Players enter the mystical world of Marjaalia, where they can either take on the role of Sirios the Thieftaker, who is intent on gaining revenge for her brother's murder, or An-Ra the Shapeshifter, who must bring Sirios before the Emperor in three days, or her lover will die.

But this is not just a first-person-view computer game, but a first-person-experience computer game. Players are immersed in the virtual world at such depth that they can feel the heat of the sun, smell their surroundings and know the actual thoughts of the character they are playing.

However, Fran's dreams of giving game-players a truly immersive adventure are ruined when the software company she works for sells the game to a mystery buyer who wants it for a completely different - and very much darker - purpose.

In an attempt to save the game, she steals it and goes on the run. But then the game takes on a life of it own and the boundaries between the real world and Marjaalia start to blur. When Fran's lover Richard Cabot becomes trapped inside the game and is heading for almost certain death, what was once a dream becomes a nightmare.

Two interlinked tales, both in the real world and the virtual world of Marjaalia weave their way to a conclusion where the big question- why Sir Marcus Evershed has put his best man, the enigmatic 'Scotsman', onto tracking it down for his boss- is revealed.

At a time when computer games are becoming such a big part of popular culture, The Xandra Function outlines a possible- and disturbing - future. Will computer games become so real that the world inside the game is as real as the world outside it? And what would happen if the characters started to live their own lives?

In his first science fiction novel, The Janus Effect, published in 2005, Alan Cash explored a future where eugenics was the dominant philosophy and time travel was possible. The Xandra Function continues his thought provoking and intriguing slant on the genre with another fast-paced adventure.

The Xandra Function is available now from online booksellers like Amazon and can be ordered from any high street bookseller.

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