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For the Win: A Novel Hardcover – May 11, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up Wei-dong, known to his Orange County family as Leonard, is addicted to guild game play with his Chinese colleagues. Mala and Yasmin, brilliant strategists, are gaming from an Internet cafe in the poor streets of Dharavi. Matthew and Lu are trying to establish their own freelance gold-farming operation in the rough city of Shenzhen. Guided from Singapore by the secretive Big Sister Nor, these young people are slowly coming together and forming a union to demand basic working conditions and protection from organized crime rackets. In order to prove their strength, these Webblies take over the three games owned by the Coca-Cola Company. Battling for real-world rights in a virtual environment, they must overcome corrupt cops, determined sys ops, and social indifference to beat the game. Doctorow is continually at the leading edge of electronic issues, rallying supporters to the causes of intellectual freedom, privacy, and social justice. Readers will appreciate the game descriptions, but will have a harder time relating the gold-farming issues back to their own play. Lengthy asides detail the workings of the game economies, but they aren't as skillfully incorporated as in Little Brother (Tor, 2008). The characters are well formed, but at times it is difficult to keep their interactions in order. Leonard's internal rant with his father is preachy and somewhat tenuous as a justification for the benefits of social gaming. On the other hand, Yasmin's emotional turmoil and attempt to reconcile her upbringing with her current circumstances is honest and rewarding. Full of action and information, this is a solid, if occasionally soapbox-worthy, narrative. Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Doctorow is indispensable. It’s hard to imagine any other author taking on youth and technology with such passion, intelligence, and understanding. Although perhaps less urgent than Little Brother (2008), this effort is superior in every other aspect: scope, plot, character, and style. Set in the near future and in locations across the globe (though primarily China and India), the story involves a sweeping cast of characters making a living—if you want to call brutal conditions and pitiful wages a “living”—in such virtual-game worlds as Svartalfheim Warriors and Zombie Mecha. Many of them, like 15-year-old Mala (known by her troops as “General Robotwalla”), endure physical threats from their bosses to farm virtual gold, which is then sold to rich First World gamers. Then these brilliant teens are brought together by the mysterious Big Sister Nor, who has a plan to unionize and bring these virtual worlds—and real-world sweatshops, too—to a screeching halt. Once again Doctorow has taken denigrated youth behavior (this time, gaming) and recast it into something heroic. He can’t resist the occasional lecture—sometimes breaking away from the plot to do so—but thankfully his lessons are riveting. With it’s eye-opening humanity and revolutionary zeal, this ambitious epic is well worth the considerable challenge. Grades 10-12. --Daniel Kraus
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Teen; 1 edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765322161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765322166
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Canadian-born Cory Doctorow has held policy positions with Creative Commons and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and been a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Southern California. He is a co-editor of the popular weblog BoingBoing (, which receives over three million visitors a month. His science fiction has won numerous awards, and his YA novel LITTLE BROTHER spent seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mike Harris on May 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
First, thanks are due to the author for his continued decision to release his works free on the Internet. Traditional media would believe it counterintuitive: why would consumers pay for something free? Counterintuitive or not, it works: it reduces the barrier to entry for a consumer. I first got my taste for Doctorow's writing with a free download, but it's one I enjoyed enough that his books -- in traditional form -- reside on my bookshelves and have survived several culls of my collection. Something to consider, publishers.

I may give younger readers too little credit, but this book is lengthy. That's something enjoyable to an adult, as it gives the complex stories time to develop and weave together. But as the book is supposedly oriented towards young adults, I wonder whether the novel's length will prove a barrier to completion.

The book reminds me of other polemic fiction I've read whose main theme is the portrayal of the triumph of a particular political ideal. This plays to one of Doctorow's strengths -- his zealotry. Doctorow believes in his ideals and thus crafts his characters so they do.

Additionally, Doctorow has a particular knack, very enjoyable for the reader, of putting together ideas in a way that have the ring of common sense, yet in a way in which they hadn't quite yet been put together -- a certain "sticky", memorable way that sits easily in the brainpan. Certainly, reputation economics has been around since time immemorial ... but only Doctorow termed it "whuffie" in his first novel, and since then, that's what many people know it as. That knack is in full display in this novel.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A. Chow on January 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Maybe it's just me, but Cory's books are beginning to read like libertarian fanfiction. As with Makers, this book was didactic and segued into "let's study economics" a little too often for my liking. As always, the bad guys are demonized and the good guys get all the sympathetic ink.

"Heavy-handed" is the word one would use for Cory's books. I applaud the clarity of the writing--there is no way to mistake what Cory's trying to say--but if there's one thing that turns me off, it's preaching. Little Brother was the strongest of all Cory's books, and on the strength of that (and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) I have given all his books a chance, but honestly, the pedantism throughout Makers was a letdown, and For the Win did not score a Win with me for the same reason. Cory needs to cut down on the lecturing, stat.

I think I'm done with Cory's books for life unless he pulls out something significantly different in the future. Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with the gold farmers and I deplore the exploitation that occurs, but I read For the Win hoping he would describe a solution (as he did in Little Brother). I was at least all right with the way Makers ended. With For The Win, I had the distinct feeling the ending was a cop-out. I am not impressed.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. Baskin on May 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
You can't sum up For The Win, by comparing it to other books. Instead when you think of it you have to take pieces from many different entertainment icons. For example when I try to describe For The Win, I would compare it to a combination of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Halo, and the movie The Sting. Only after having considered all of these pieces can you get an inkling of what For The Win is like.

And yet it is more than all of that. For The Win also included important and accurate descriptions of financial definitions and schemes, such as buying futures, economies of scale, and even a ponzi scheme. But these inter-chapters detailing financial issues are critical to understanding the book, and so I was amazed at how well Doctorow is able to convey these issues to the reader.

But as I mentioned For The Win is more than that. It is an enthralling action packed novel that has detailed memorable characters, detailed plot twists, and an engaging story. Because of this I would recommend this book to anyone, teen or adult, as it is an exceptional novel that both teaches and entertains, a rare feat in any book. And so everyone should go out and get it today.

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By The Wanderer on May 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"For the Win" is the sixth novel by the acclaimed journalist and science-fiction writer Cory Doctorow, and his second for young adults. Set in the not-too-distant future, it takes as its subject the phenomenon of massively-multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs). In Doctorow's vision, these games - the successors to titles such as World of Warcraft - have grown to the extent that they have become fully-fledged economies in themselves, with sweatshop-workers in India and China employed by villainous bosses to "farm" the game-worlds for prestige items that can be sold to players in return for real-world cash. The novel follows some of those workers as they try to overturn the system and bring about fair conditions and pay for all.

An interesting premise, perhaps, but there is little that is especially original or ground-breaking about it. In fact the majority of the action takes place in the real world, not the virtual one, and aside from a few brief glimpses at the beginning of the novel, we see remarkably little of the games described - which would not only have been enlightening to less informed readers but might have provided a useful counterpoint to the real world. At the same time, there is little attempt to explore the psychology of the gamers themselves, which might have helped bring the characters to life, and establish greater sympathy for them. It would have been interesting to gain some insight into what attracts players to MMORPGs, and why they invest so much time and effort in them.

Certainly there are some exciting moments - many of the characters are on the run from the authorities, utilising their computing expertise to deliver illicit night-time broadcasts to workers worldwide - but on the whole the plot fails to deliver much drama.
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