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Secret Realms Mass Market Paperback – April 15, 1999

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Virtual-reality war-games yarn--something like The Lawnmower Man meets Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game--with some intriguing wrinkles of its own, from the author of the paperback Infectress. When child warriors Trickster, Cat, Snake, Dreamer and their colleagues enter Battle Space, they fight increasingly complex wars against a variety of ever more powerful foes; otherwise, they interact only with one another and with System, and wonder whether they're really only software. Trickster, though, begins to grasp that they're inside a VR system and have real bodies somewhere, and dreams of being able to destroy System. What they don't yet know is that they're a part of Standing Whirlwind, a project set up by China in order to train them as VR soldiers for the imminent showdown with the world's other superpower, Japan. As the war begins, a US warship wanders into the battle zone, while a huge typhoon obscures the progress of the fighting; helped by Iva, a project psychologist and actually Trickster's mother, Trickster and the others gain control of System. Trickster sends VR copies, or doppelgngers, of himself to subvert the Japanese computer network; meanwhile, he locates and reoccupies his physical body. Soon, he and the others break out and defeat their Chinese masters, but still must deal with Japanese commandos and US marines. Finally, Trickster gambles on being able to stop the war before it escalates into a nuclear holocaust. An impressively developed scenario in a yarn that emphasizes both the reality of violence and its emotional consequences: affecting and effective. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Secret Realms is indeed a crackerjack....A very satisfying adventure."--Analog

"Commander Cool brings a ring of obvious authenticity to scene that others can only describe from the outside. He's been there!"--David Drake

"As plausible a rendering of the 'virtual reality' cyberspace paradigm as I've ever seen, made all the more striking by its cast of strong, sympathetic characters, who led me through the story in one sitting."--William Barton

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; Reprint edition (April 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812545265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812545265
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,155,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Tom Cool is a true name.

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1954, when the Earth had only one satellite. I grew up in Rennerdale, a small, peaceful town nestled in an Appalachian valley. It was an anarchic paradise, with no crime, police, traffic lights or any apparent government, although there was a volunteer fire department down by the pond.

That, and a huge Nike missile site that loomed on the western ridge. Its giant radar rotated above the town for most of my childhood. The Nike site's mission was to shoot down Soviet bombers before they could nuke Pittsburgh.

The book that hooked me on science fiction was THE AMSIRS AND THE IRON THORN, by Algis Budrys, 1967, which concerns a small human settlement dominated by a huge alien artefact.

At the age of fifteen, I wrote my first science fiction novel, SENTINELS, which has since been lost in fire.

In 1976, I graduated from Penn State's creative writing program with honors, in the honors program of English. Thus prepared for life, for the next few years, I worked as a hodcarrier in northern Ohio and backpacked throughout north and central America, eventually ending up in the Guatemalan jungle with no money and no official papers. How I got home from there is another story.

In 1979, for a variety of reasons, I joined the United States Navy. During my naval career, I served at stations in Denver, Norfolk, Panama City, Monterey, Pearl Harbor, Alameda, Washington D.C. and Miami. I made four deployments in aircraft carrier battle groups to the Mediterranean, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf.

The Navy treated me well, sending me to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where in 1987, I earned a Master of Science in Computer Science. Later I worked as an agent of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Intelligence, developing software in support of military intelligence analysis. My final tour of duty was as the Deputy Director of Intelligence for Plans and Programs, United States Southern Command. I retired a commander in 1999.
Tom Cool and the Lone Sailor statue, Navy Memorial, Washington D.C.
Two sailors, circa 1998

After taking a year off, I began working as a computer engineer for The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit company.

My published works to date are three science fiction novels, SOLDIER OF LIGHT (with John de Lancie), SECRET REALMS and INFECTRESS. My stories are "Universal Emulators" (Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1997) and "Frozen," which was included in the anthology TREACHERY and TREASON in early 2000.

My beloved wife is Eva. We have two wonderful children, Natasha Katinka Cool and Tai Tai "Fiery Rage" Cool.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Hickman ( on July 2, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
No one can deny that the provisions for modern (global scale) warfare are closing the gap between the training simulations and actual combat with a bewildering rapidity. Secret Realms deals with the use of an enclosed virtual simulator which has been designed for the purpose of developing the entire human potential for tactical and strategic thinking in select individuals who have been ruthlessly isolated from actual real-life experiences in their virtual simulator from infancy (a project implemented by those ultimate pragmatists, the Chinese). I personally have little use for computer games, but the author has managed to make the virtual trainee's imaginative environment fascinating, and more important, has made the characters alive and important to the reader in their bizarre context. Tom Cool has combined first-rate story-telling with an exceptional visual imagination to produce a great story.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having only read a few sci-fi novels in my lifetime, I took a chance and read "Secret Realms" by Tom Cool. I was very impressed with it. The author spent great effort in being very detail-oriented. It was obvious that he had the technical knowledge to go with his military background in creating a plot that had depth and high interest. I found the concept of growing up in a virtual world almost mind boggling, but accept its plausibility; the concept took me into new territory of thought as I read it. I would highly recommend (and already have recommended) Cool's book. I have already put in an order for his first book, "Infectress," and am looking forward to receiving it.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Realms creates an intriguing visions of the future of warfare... cybernauts raised from infancy in a virtual world designed specifically to breed uber-tacticians. Believable enough, but from there on the suspension of disbelief becomes a little more challenging. For example, despite somewhat limited use of their muscles throughout their lives - and having only lived in a very controled & sterile environment, on emergence into the real world they're much stronger and faster than your average highly trained commando who was born and raised in the harshness of our reality. Uh huh, I not so sure about that.
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