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Sector Eight (Perimeter Defense - 1) by Michael Atamanov
A strange unyielding body that used to belong to Crown Prince George; a weird game you can't quit until your contract expires; a world teeming with powerful and very real enemies. The game in which your reputation and faction relationship are the only things that matter.
Ruslan - a young ambitious gamer - agrees to these terms without hesitation. All that he knows is that he's been contracted to command a space fleet in a brand new game he knows nothing about. Objective: to survive for six months. He can't tell anyone about the swap. After having made some inevitable newb mistakes, Ruslan has to rethink his strategy, dropping traditional gaming conventions.
Very soon Ruslan starts playing the part of the Crown Prince by his own rules. He replaces his quarrelsome Great House allies with sentient insects and chameleons; he even ignores the Prince's wife, preferring the company of a friendly droid and a young artless princess. The aristocratic Empire is in shock, scheming against Ruslan and even trying to bring him before the Royal court. Still, Ruslan can do very much what he wants as long as he does what he signed up for: lead his victorious Sector Eight Fleet to new triumphs.