Robert Remington Ripley the Third thought he was done with Dreamlands Inc. and the artificial reality he helped to create. Until a Russian spy asked him to give her his back door into the program. Then Marines drag him back to the company he left, where he finds out that the system has suffered a critical Anomaly, trapping everyone in the game, and making in game deaths real. And the company expects him to go in and fix it.
The first book in the Dreamland Chronicles trilogy (no, not that The Dreamland Chronicles; this one came first) by Wm Mark Simmons. Called a silly serious fantasy, and compared to the The Matrix (though again, this book predates said movie). The book wears is snark on its sleeve, and is rife with pop culture references and puns, while discussing deep topics like the nature of reality and artificial intelligence.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Greek and Norse gods, fairy tales, Tolkienesque elves, dwarves, and goblins. Not to mention Dr. Cyrus Klops, the giant, one-eyed biologist.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Stumpy the Dwarf cook wields one.
- Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: The Machine falls in love with Robert and gives herself an in game avatar designed to appeal to his tastes. It works.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The Anomaly was caused by Daggoth the Dark/Mike Straeker transferring his soul from his dying real body into his Fantasy World Avatar. Summoning the main computer into its own program didn't help, either..
- No Man of Woman Born: Morhpeus is protected from "stone and steel, iron and incantation", and "any poison administered by the hand of man". He is killed when a Ariel ejects a poisoned ruby from her umbilicus into his wine glass. She specifically uses this method so that even if the 'man' part of the protection applies to all humans, she did not use her hand to deliver the poison.
- Orwellian Retcon: The first (and only) printing of In the Net of Dreams was written at the end of the Cold War, and makes references to said political conflict, the Soviet Union, and the Communist Party. After the fall of the Eastern Block, the omnibus edition of the trilogy revises the storyline to the talk about the Russian Republic instead. The foreword even discusses the change and the author's annoyance.
- Reality Warper: Any sufficiently senior Programmer, or any projection of the Machine.
- Rewriting Reality
- Stock Weapon Names: In the first book Riplakish ends up with both Caladbolg and Balmung, here the ultimate swords forged by the elves and dwarves, respectively, "when the world was young, and they vied for mastery of the forge". This version of Caladbolg has a crystal blade.