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

4.1 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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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 (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #982,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Young, poor Asian gaming workers from Mumbai ghettos and failed Chinese industrial cities take on Indian gangsters and brutal Chinese police with the help of home grown labor organizers. Pretty classic stuff. Also from my Free Market Capitalism perspective it rings true.
Maybe I should say I love it!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
(40-something male reader)
This book easily could have been half the length that it is but for whatever reason the editor decided to let Doctorow be as discursive as he pleases. It tested my patience as an adult and I'm sure it will test the patience of the young adult target audience. Also, for adult readers with an iota of knowledge about economics, be prepared to sit through a lot of spoon feeding of basic principles for the young adult audience.

As other reviewers have commented, it is a soup of characters without any strong lead. And once the basic conflict is set up it kind of plays out as one very long chase sequence in slow motion. Doctorow was trying to set up some grand global web that would ultimately coalesce but he overreaches and under delivers. The conclusion of the book is the very definition of anticlimax.

I enjoyed "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" and haven't read any others of his since. This book was a disappointment. Can't recommend it for anyone young or old.
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