World Leader Pretend: A Novel

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9780312352233: World Leader Pretend: A Novel

With over 100 million players world wide, virtual games are more than just a niche community, it's phenomenon. Now comes the first novel set in the world of virtual gaming World Leader Pretend.
Xeres Meticula is a failure. A casualty of the dot.com bust, he now lives in his parents' basement and spends all day on one pursuit, winning The Realm. Fortunately he's not alone. Joining him in his world is; Gek-Lin, an orphan in Thailand who spends her nights in an internet cafe; Dietrich Bjornson, a welder working in Antarctica; and Tres Rawling, a former Olympic skier for England whose career was cut short when an accident left him a quadriplegic; and many more. Together they communicate and connect, working to achieve virtual world dominance, but when tragedy on and off line occurs, can these real people trust each other enough to find the help they need in one another?
World Leader Pretend is a provocative novel about virtual connection in the modern age that reads like Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night meets Indecision.

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About the Author:

JAMES BERNARD FROST received his MFA in fiction from the University of San Francisco. He worked as a journalist for Wired magazine. He lives in Portland, Oregon. World Leader Pretend is his first novel.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PROLOGUE: THE TWO-HEADED BOY

Two-Headed Boy
All floating in glass
The sun it has passed
Now it's blacker than black
I can hear as you tap on your jar


--NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL, "TWO-HEADED BOY"

Edward Calvin Rawlings III is not a crier. He has, in fact, only cried a few times in his adult life.

The first time that he cried was after the accident--not right after the accident, not after he had caught an edge at 73.2 m.p.h.; had caught an edge after coming off a 100-foot precipice during the preliminaries of the European Championships; had caught an edge right before the famous Chamonix left; had caught an edge and gone over; had gone right through the course lining that read Pepsi-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Pepsi-Cola; had gone through the course lining and over a rock-strewn cliff and landed in soft snow, soft snow that although it was soft still twisted his left leg in such a way that it still, to this day, points upward with his knee inverted, inverted the wrong way. The fall also snapped his spine, snapped it irreparably and irrevocably, so that since the age of nineteen, since January 23rd, 1997, since his last day as a budding star, England's best hope for its first downhill skiing winter Olympics medal, he has been immobile in his wheelchair, immobile from the neck down, actually even worse than that, immobile from the upper jaw down, immobile in such a way that he has not spoken since he was nineteen, immobile so that his saliva must be sucked from a tube that enters his mouth in the right corner, from a tube that circles around his right cheek to the back of his neck, where it attaches to other tubes. Edward Calvin Rawlings III, known to his friends and family as Tres, pronounced Trace, all one syllable, did not cry then. He hadn't cried then because he had blacked out in midair.

He also hadn't cried when he regained consciousness in a hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, in a full body cast. He hadn't cried when, before anyone had realized that he had finally regained consciousness and needed to be told what had happened, on the telly that was located ten feet over his head and angled down at him, on an American station, on ABC, they were replaying it, they were replaying him, with the #78 on his back and the skintight bodysuit with the Union Jack imprinted on both the front and the back, going through the course lining with Pepsi-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Pepsi-Cola on it. It was just like on the Wide World of Sports when the skier broke through a similar sheet of plastic, spinning, and crashed pell-mell into a crowd of spectators, while a dramatic male voice said:...and the agony of defeat. They replayed Tres dropping over the cliff and landing in the soft snow with a thud. He hadn't wanted to watch it. He had wanted to be told by someone else, someone other than two smarmy sportscasters wearing yellow blazers and big smiles and talking into microphones that looked like snowcones. But he couldn't move. He was physically unable to turn away or reduce the volume. And so he heard from two sportscasters, "Let us take a short break from our regularly scheduled program to have a moment of silence for Tres Rawlings, the talented young English skier who will never walk again."

Still, this didn't make him cry. What made him cry was when his father, when Edward Calvin Rawlings Jr., had come into his Geneva hospital room and called him Eddie. When his father, sighing heavily, on his breath a hint of The Macallan, which he had sucked out of a small plastic bottle on the way to Geneva, said, "Eddie, you're awake! Bloody Christ! I was in Lili and Carpenter's when it happened. I saw the whole thing on the telly. Eric and I were drinking pints. You missed your turn and went through the railings and over the cliff. When they showed the stretcher, you didn't move. We couldn't believe it. And then, just like that, they switched over to Colin Montgomerie putting for birdie at the Scottish Open."

Edward, Tres's father, went on, went on to explain how quickly he and Tilda had hopped on a plane from London, how quickly they had got to Geneva, how distraught his mother was, but Tres couldn't listen. Edward was calling him Eddie. His father was calling him Eddie. His father had never called him Eddie. His name was Tres. He was the third. Uno. Dos. Tres. His father called him Tres because he was his father's namesake, the third in a proud lineage, and now, suddenly, his father was calling him Eddie. He wanted to communicate this, to tell his father not to call him Eddie. But he couldn't. His mouth wouldn't move. His fingers wouldn't move. His father was calling him Eddie.

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