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Updated: January 6, 2010 21:29 IST

An avatar roaming the galaxy

D. Murali
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“The door to Vince’s den was wide open and Fox saw that his computer had been removed by the investigators.” But, where are we? In page 71 of ‘The Complaints’ by Ian Rankin (www.orionbooks.co.uk). “Jude’s bedroom door was ajar. He knocked and pushed it all the way open…”

A few pages later, you’d hear Fox the cop suggesting that if Breck is using his home computer, ‘we could set up the van outside, zero in on his keystrokes and find out what he’s doing.’

Do you need judicial approval for the van, wonders Inglis. ‘Fox shook his head. ‘DCC can give the go-ahead, and even then it can be retrospective,’ Rankin narrates. Meanwhile, Inglis nudges the mouse on the desk next to her. “The computer screen sprang back to life, showing the same photograph as before - the Melbourne cop with the Asian kid.”

You know what their defence is, asks Inglis? “They call it a victimless crime. They share photos. In most cases that’s all they say they do. They’re not the ones doing the actual abusing.”

Post a drinking session with Fox, it is Breck turning philosophical. “When we’re drunk or just happy we can start to believe that we’ve created the whole world around us,” he tells Fox. But that’s an illusion, he protests. “Not necessarily, Malcolm. I think we shape each and every moment. We choose the way our lives are going to go. That’s why I get such a buzz from games.”

Online games, RPGs or role-playing games, are what he means. “There’s one called Quidnunc that I play a lot. I’ve got an avatar who roams the galaxy having adventures.”

We don’t have any control over the world, Fox says. “Adverts tell us what to buy, government tells us how to live, technology tells us when we’ve done something wrong.” In demonstration, he releases the seat belt. “A warning light came on, accompanied by the ping-ping-ping of an alarm.” Ever managed to use a computer without it asking if you need help, he asks Breck.

A few hundred pages ahead, you meet a dazed Fox, helping himself to painkillers. “The list of people Fox felt he could trust was short, its margins filled with ifs and buts and question marks…”

Thriller pick for the weekend.

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