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This Is Not a Game: A Novel Hardcover – March 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Williams (The Rift) weaves intriguing questions about games, gamers and their relationships with real life into this well-paced near-future thriller. Game designer Dagmar specializes in creating alternate reality games that muddle the line between fantasy and reality. Trapped in riot-torn Jakarta, she reaches out to the gamer community for help. Once back in Los Angeles, Dagmar is caught up in a web of murders and financial manipulation that she begins to blend into her latest game, using the community of players to solve clues and sift through large amounts of data. The line between real life and the game blurs as the action builds to a satisfying and thoughtful conclusion. Though the technology talk occasionally becomes intrusive, it's convincingly written; the characters are realistic and absorbing, and the story deeply compelling. (Mar.)
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"Interstellar adventure has a new king, and his name is Walter Jon Williams." --- George R.R. Martin

"A spectacular far-future space opera." --- Locus on The Sundering

"This series is great fun to read, one of the most entertaining space operas in many years." --- SF Site on The Sundering

"[Williams'] meticulous inner eye creates a landscape so rich in concrete and metaphysical imagery that it alone is practically worth the price of admission." --- on City of Fire

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; 1 edition (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316003158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316003155
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,286,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ian Kaplan VINE VOICE on July 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I've been reading Walter Jon Williams since he wrote Hardwired and Voice Of The Whirlwind. But I have not found his recent work as good as the books he wrote all those years ago. For example, I thought that Implied Spaces was a weak book. I was pleasantly surprised by This Is Not A Game, which I found to be Williams' best book in some time.

The book is written in a three act form. The first part of the book is fascinating and sets the context for the moral issues that arise later in the book. Reading this book it seemed to me that Williams was "doing" an impression of William Gibson, picking up on some of the themes that Gibson has touched on. I enjoyed this, especially because Gibson hasn't been doing Gibson much these days (sadly his Spook Country was one of his weakest books). Nor do I see anything wrong with one artist being influenced by another.

This Is Not A Game is set in the relatively near future. One of the things I enjoyed about this book is its technological speculation. I am a computer scientist and I found most of the speculation reasonable. There was some suspension of disbelief required when it comes to the ability of software to "learn", but I didn't find that this detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

One way I judge a book is whether I'm still thinking about it after I've finished reading it. I keep thinking of bits and pieces of This Is Not A Game.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By C. Claiborn on May 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like Williams' work, and both "Aristoi" and "Metropolitan" are favorites. "Game" is a couple of steps below those. The first (and best) segment, in which a Dagmar, game producer is forced to rely upon strangers on the Internet for help escaping a collapsed state, is tense and tightly-plotted. The second, longer segment, which tells the story of Dagmar's game and a few real-life murders that may or may not be attached to the game's events, works less well.

Part of the problem may be that Williams simply doesn't have anywhere to go: he introduces only four characters of any consequence, and one of them is the narrator, so any mysteries will be solved after the second murder. That limited scope is a feature of the work in general: although we're told about 3 million people playing the game, there can't be more than six or seven people named in the book. Williams keeps only a very narrow window open on the action. Because of this, the book flies by, but there aren't any surprises for the alert reader.

A couple of moments in the novel that don't amount to much--the inept Israeli security company, the kung-fu Muslims who save Dagmar--gave me the impression that this book might have been trimmed down from something longer. If that's the case, it's too bad; a little more flesh on the bones of this story might have made the second half of the novel feel less inexorable.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Baslim the Beggar on April 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First I would like to say that one previous reviewer seems to equate this with a war/combat book. It is not. It is more akin to Michael Crichton's "Prey." Nor do I agree with the reviewer who felt that the female protagonist became too much of a good thing. Did she save the world? No, not by herself. Because of the deaths of others, the final actions fell to her.

Why she does what she does in the end is shaped by what happens in the beginning. That beginning is, putting yourself in her position, rather scary. Finding yourself in the middle of a financial and social meltdown in a different culture would be pretty scary. I like the way Williams plays out the situation. It has the ring of truth. There are bad people and there are good people. Different people have different agendas. Our girl is lucky she has not only a rich friend, but a resourceful group of people who use the "six degrees" to arrange an escape.

One of the interesting things is how the group functions. There are a couple of references to "the group mind" which do not seem so far off.
In fact, we see intelligent agents in the form of software and wetware.
The former are an example of the law of unintended consequences. And of the idea of emergence, where from the (not quite random) small-scale actions of many low-level software agents a large scale action can occur.

The use of the resource of the multitudes playing the game (which is of the type known as alternate reality game, where players get clues and points for solving intermediate puzzles on the way to running the script to its conclusion) is fascinating. Not only do you use the player's computing powers but also their real-life skills.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jacob Glicklich on February 24, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's a technothriller with large tokens of a murder mystery, all wrapped around an intricate knowledge of online forums and live roleplaying. The knowledge of this type of sub-culture is where the book's strengths really lies, with a lot of humor and some interesting scenarios embedded into the plot. The characterization and plot is decent, and the above high points are enough to get pass some melodramatic silliness with the Russian Mafia.

The core of the larger idea here is on the basic danger of an unregulated market, the way profit can emerge through ripple effects that cause violence and chaos in the short term, and global collapse longer term. Specifically, there's a system of automated trading viruses that have become very good at mindlessly increasing wealth for their creator, up to the level of netting billions by collapsing entire national currencies. As a sci-fi metaphor this works decently, and some of the strongest work in this vein occurs through description off all the very real human suffering and death produced by such (coerced, in this case) market forces. However the resolution, as practically mandated by the style and techno-thriller format, is far too pat and simplifies everything. Foil the psychopathically greedy villain, use millions of online players to carry out a complex Internet-wide debugging operation, end the economic menace. It's possible to quite literally put the genie back in the bottle here, and there's little sight of any more complex evaluation or possible remedy towards economic meltdowns conventional or SFnal. Perhaps that's expecting too much from this, more than Williams really aimed at. Still, the field could always use more ambition and depth, particularly in a time like this dealing in a speculative fiction way with this particular theme.

This book reminded me of and was better than: Stross' Halting State.

This book reminded me of and was worse than: Reynolds' Chasm City.
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