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This Is Not a Game: A Novel Hardcover – March 24, 2009
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Once upon a time, there were four of them. And though each was good at a number of things, all of them were very good at games...
Dagmar is a game designer trapped in
Her boss Charlie has his own problems -- 4.3 billion of them, to be precise, hidden in an off-shore account.
BJ was there from the start, but while Charlie's star rose, BJ sank into the depths of customer service. He pads his hours at the call-center slaying on-line orcs, stealing your loot, and selling it on the internet.
But when one of them is gunned down in a parking lot, the survivors become players in a very different kind of game. Caught between the dangerous worlds of the Russian Mafia and international finance, Dagmar must draw on all her resources -- not least millions of online gamers-- to track down the killer. In this near-future thriller, Walter Jon Williams weaves a pulse-pounding tale of intrigue, murder, and games where you don't get an extra life.
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This book defies category description. It's a thriller, undoubtedly, steeped in gaming culture and an increasingly radical geopolitical climate, but no attempt at categorizing does it justice.
I've recommended this book to many friends, and their reaction is invariably hesitation, followed by reading a few pages, followed by devouring the book and then raving about it. Williams is one of the strongest prose and plotsmiths working today, though his work is often overlooked because it doesn't conform to any single genre.
This one is about a world that is eerily familiar--I recommend checking its copyright date to undercut any ideas that he was just being derivative. He was being prescient, and the next books in the series are even more so.
This is not a ponderous tale. It's fun, you'll probably like the way the online game players get together to first extract Dagmar Shaw, the protagonist-game creator, from a riot-torn Indonesia and back to LA, and then how they get together to help her thwart the bad guy and, oh yeah, save the world. But it's all more than a bit tongue in cheek. And one of the characters is really more of a running gag than anything else.
This is not an era that the author particularly likes. Along the way you'll get his take on the way science fiction writers are treated by their publishers, as well as his feelings about toilers in the service-industry vineyards--to say nothing of his obvious discontent with the present politico-economic system. This is not a book to pass by, if you're looking for something to pass the time.
The first part of the book is strongest, with the heroine drawing on the collective power of internet gamers to escape a dangerous situation. It'd make an excellent stand-alone novella. The rest of the novel becomes a murder mystery, but not all that good a one. The problem is a lack of characters: the tradition of a murder mystery is, that the guilty party is sufficiently present in the novel that the reader can figure it out shortly before the protagonist does. In this book, there just aren't enough suspects: two or possibly three. With such a thin field, it's easy to guess whodunnit.
On the plus side, the heroine's inability to guess is quite understandable, as she's been portrayed all along as a naive geek, trusting everyone unless proven otherwise. That means it's not one of those novels where a character gets handed the Idiot Ball; in this book, Dagmar's blind spots are carefully delineated, and also quite believable.
Decent book. Not award-worthy, but not a waste of time either.
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