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First published in 1976, “The Mind-Riders” features a remarkable anticipation of virtual reality gaming, in which the revised sport of boxing pits physically identical virtual fighters against one another, operated by electronically-connected “handlers” — with viewers receiving transmissions of the combatants’ emotions as their simulations slug it out. Ryan Hart, banished from the sport in its early days because of his lack of marketable emotion, is brought back by an obsessed media executive who wants to see the reigning champion beaten at any cost. Hart is not certain that he can win, after such a lapse of time, nor is he certain he can resist pressure to give the vast virtual crowds the dose of sadistic exultation they crave. But that doesn’t stop him from heading into the virtual “ring” and fighting the bout of his life!
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