Ten years ago, Blythe Randall broke James Pryce’s heart. Now she needs his help. Her enigmatic appeal lures the elite hacker into his most tantalizing, and most personal, assignment yet.
A Harvard dropout employed by Manhattan-based RedRook Security, James makes a living finding people who don’t want to be found, pursuing their digital tracks around the globe, flushing out criminals, and exacting creative high-tech revenge on behalf of his clients. But this time he’s following his target—billionaire multi-media artist Billy Randall—into an exotic and treacherous world: a virtual one.
Capping off an erratic, increasingly violent series of stunts meant to plague his family’s media empire, black sheep Billy sends a video of his own suicide to his older siblings, aristocratic twins Blythe and Blake. In it, Billy “jacks out,” reanimating onscreen as an avatar in a decadent online world called NOD. The performance is pure Billy—he has always been obsessed with “the Bleed”: the moment when real and virtual selves intersect, where actions in one life breed consequences in another.
Blythe uses her influence to install James at GAME, a downtown media collective and one of Billy’s recent haunts. Posing as a documentarian, James gains access to a small band of artists and programmers—contemporaries, and in some cases, enemies of Billy Randall—whose top-secret project represents the holy grail of virtual reality. Meanwhile, James learns that as part of his most recent scheme, Billy has himself designed a lavish alternate reality game, an escalating, high stakes virtual landscape of strange flesh.
In order to find him, James must play along.