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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a little predictable
"An alternate reality game, also known as an altered reality game (ARG), is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions."

When Dagmar is stuck in a foreign country after a connecting flight is cancelled her problems are...
Published on 22 April 2009 by Mark Chitty

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice idea but 2-d characters
I'd never heard of the author before picking up this book although apparently he's been writing for years and been nominated for loads of SF awards. Walter Jon Williams certainly has a fluid and polished writing style and this book flows swiftly and easily.

This is Not a Game focuses on 4 old friends who met while students and were drawn together by their love...
Published on 9 Mar. 2011 by zerot


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a little predictable, 22 April 2009
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"An alternate reality game, also known as an altered reality game (ARG), is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions."

When Dagmar is stuck in a foreign country after a connecting flight is cancelled her problems are only just beginning. With the country's currency collapsing and coming under military lockdown, the situation deteriorates very quickly and she fears for her safety. Her boss and friend, Charlie, is a multi-millionaire and uses his money to hire specialists to help get her out. But as the Puppetmaster of Great Big Idea, a company that focuses on ARGs, she uses the wide fan base to assist her wherever they can - and comes up with some positive results.

Back in the real world and inspired by her recent experience, Dagmar starts up the next ARG from Great Big Idea. But things start to go bad when an old friend and fellow employee is murdered. Now realising the power she has in the real world through the players of her ARGs, Dagmar starts to insert real events into the latest adventure in the hope that they can help solve this real world crime. But as events unravel she discovers just how bad things could get - can her and the Alternate Reality Gamers solve the clues and get to the bottom of things before it is too late?

The first thing that struck me about This Is Not A Game is how easily I slipped into the characters we follow. Dagmar is the main focus of the novel and we discover things with her and live through her experiences, it's very pleasing to follow someone that is likable, and enjoyably so. With her experience as the puppetmaster of Great Big Idea she has many tools at her fingertips that we learn very quickly can make a huge difference to her predicament. Of course, this also serves to bring us up to speed with the jargon and nature of ARG's and the basis of the novel.

This is the main plot point in the novel and if you don't understand the mechanics of how things work it could mean that the story drags. I don't think this is a major issue though as essentially this is a techno thriller with some good characters and a well developed and thought through plot. Above all else, that is what matters, but Williams does such a good job at immersing you in the story and layering the plot just right that the pages soon fly by.

I don't really have any issues with This Is Not A Game either, everything to make a good, enjoyable novel is present. If I had to be picky I would simply say that once certain revelations happen it is fairly easy to see the outcome, not that this detracts from the entertaining storytelling in any way. All in all a highly recommended techno-thriller that will make the time you spend reading it fly by!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cyberpunk cracker, 12 April 2009
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
In a world that's going to hell in a hand basket financially it is with perhaps interesting timing that the latest novel by Walter arrives on the UK shelves. A techno thriller that transcends the troubles of the world in an adventure that will take the reader on a rollercoater of a tale that really takes some beating. Well written, excellently crafted it's a tale that will appeal to many readers and not just the typical reader of the genre. How do I know? I passed this onto my grandfather who devoured it with relish. If an 86 year old can get as much thrills and spills out of this tale as any other reader then you know that it has to be a quality read. Well done Walter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a good read, 22 May 2009
Ok, too easy a title to mimic but yes, this is a good read, an excellent thriller with just a hint of technology and the future infused into it.
Williams can do no wrong in whatever area he chooses to write in. This shows him crafting a neat thriller with the insight of the potential of online communities to effect the 'real world'.
All, without trying to stretch or over elaborate beyond what is needed to tell a good story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This Is Not A Dud, 4 April 2009
Gibson's cyberpunk genre is far from obsolete or even dead. Walter Jon Williams has written a finely crafted and gripping novel where role-playing online gaming meets a mcguffin hunt in the real world. This Is Not A Game is and is not what it says on the cover. Confused? Well, you will be, but only for a while and, by comparison, I found the storyline easier to follow than Gibson's early works. Okay, it may lack a degree of depth or compexity, but sometimes its better not to be lost in the mystery to enjoy the flow more. Too little of Williams' work reaches the UK bookshelves so go out and get this one pour encourager les autres.
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5.0 out of 5 stars TINAG, 21 Nov. 2010
By 
S. Bentley "stuarthoratiobentley" (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: This Is Not A Game: You Don't Get a Second Life (Paperback)
Tapping into the current vogue for alternate reality games or ARGs, Walter Jon Williams' novel stands shoulder to shoulder with Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End and Cory Doctorow's For The Win, in the way that it looks at how entertainment may alter society. Less investigative of the changes in society and intellectualism than Vinge's work, less polemic than Doctorow's, it nonetheless manages to be political (commenting heavily on the frailty of the economic systems that govern the world, the tenuous nature of society, and what greed can do to a person) and pulse-racing. Unlike the other two books, which I greatly enjoyed as well, I read 200 pages of this book in one day and the rest the day after. That's how strong the narrative is.

Our heroine is Dagmar, who writes ARGs for Great Big Idea. They are about to launch a new game called Planet Nine and need an ARG to tie into it and create buzz. Dagmar uses events from her own life (she is caught up in the economic collapse of Indonesia and finds herself prisoner in a hotel) to create the new story. And then one of her colleagues is murdered in the street in front of her, and she uses the ARG to mobilise the players of said game to find the murderer and from thereon blurs the line between paid entertainment and her own agenda, as her friends prove to have murky pasts and her certainties are taken away from her.

Williams finds strong voices for all his characters who live and breathe on the page. He comes up with a byzantine tricky plot, which only falters a little right at the end by not being quite so clever as you'd expect and making the book feel like it would fit equally well on the thriller shelves. He paints a very familiar online world that carefully mimicks the real-life behaviours of gamers, whilst dealing with the world of entertainment in a similarly accurate way. The familiarity is warm and draws you in because you've seen people talk like that in forums.

But my favourite part is how subtly he points to how society can be manipulated and how the world can be controlled.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nice near-future sf, 1 Sept. 2010
By 
James C. Foreman (Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: This Is Not A Game: You Don't Get a Second Life (Paperback)
I've been a long term fan of WJW, insofar as I read Voice of the Whirlwind as a callow youth and was most impressed, and a few years ago I read Hardwired: he could certainly write action sequences.

It's a little shameful, perhaps, that the reason I chose TINAG was because it was the cheapest book in my local bookshop's science fiction section, but it was that or some dreadful Games Workshop doorstop about Space Marines, a Halo tie-in, or a Charles Stross I didn't feel I had the mental capacity for that day.

Thus I was taken aback by how many ideas TINAG is teeming with, and how well the feel of Jakarta is nailed within the first chapters of the book, and just how clever Williams is, without feeling as though he's showing off. Little bits and pieces help: the fact that he locates one scene in Lincoln's Inn Fields made it feel very personal to me (although I suppose some of the action in LA would do the same for others) but overall it's just the way that he constructs a very believable near-future situation, without resorting to huge infodumps of data to explain what's going on, that has made me read 360-odd pages in less than 24 hours (which includes necessary pauses to sleep, eat, and work).

The only thing I find a little unconvincing is that so many people would be invested with Augmented Reality Games (ARGs); perhaps I'm blighted from playing an absolutely awful one in 2000 that was intended to promote some Nokia or other, but I wonder if there really would be millions of committed players, or if they'd just all be playing Farmville instead. But it's a great read: it feels almost like a real-world version of Halting State, for want of a better comparison. Which gets us back to Stross again, almost where we started.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Neat thriller/SF/gaming combo, 29 April 2010
By 
A. J. Poulter "AP" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Dagmar, Austin, Charlie and BJ are gamers. They met playing RPGs and grew into professional gamers, trying to make money out of their hobby. After the usual string of failures they make it with augmented reality gaming (ARG), but only after a terminal falling out between Charlie and BJ, with the latter being thrown out of the company. While BJ now works in a lowly user support role and gold farms on the side, Charlie finds out that his Cayman Islands bank account has a lot more money in it than he expected. Dagmar, despatched to Jakarta to wind up a game project, becomes stranded there because of a currency collapse. Using a professional 'extraction' company to get her out proves fruitless so she involves the company's gamers in their lastest game in her predicament.

This kicks off the main part of the story, as, on her return, Austin is murdered by a Russian hit man and Charlie goes into hiding, leaving Dagmar to sort things out by blurring the ongoing game with real life events. Everything turns out to be connected and neat technological ideas and the online gaming milieux are exploited well to provide plot rationales and twists. For example, one 'dumpster diver' gamer (who spies on the game company itself to get an advantage in the game) is used to track down the Russian hitman.

All in all a good read and a switchback plot line. It possibly misses a trick in not exploiting more the convergence between games and real life, the ironic TINAG abbreviation of the title, which is repeated throughout as a motto, but nevertheless succeeds in creating something realistic enough not to be science fiction.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and clever thriller against a background of gaming, 1 July 2010
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: This Is Not A Game: You Don't Get a Second Life (Paperback)
I hadn't read any of Williams' books before, I've clearly been missing something because "This is not a Game" is a tensely plotted, intelligent and many layered thriller - and I see it's got a sequel coming Deep State.

The book opens with Dagmar, designer/ producer/ orchestrator of hybrid online-live action games, stranded in Indonesia as rioting breaks out following a currency crisis (shades of this year's economics, and the ash cloud from That Volcano). It Isn't A Game for her at all, as she uses the only means she has - her online community - to solve the puzzles and problems she needs to to escape. (Many of her helpers are convinced, of course, that it is a game).

This is a strong opening act and a compelling idea, which could have formed the basis for a pretty good book alone. But here it's only the taster. Once Dagmar gets home to LA, she faces further threats and puzzles and, inevitable, draws on her gaming community to help here too. Who organised the attack on the Indonesian currency? Who is taking down one country's economy after another? Then the bodies start to pile up. It gets very exciting, and while you can, perhaps, see the ending a little too far off, it's still enjoyable getting there (look out in particular for Dagmar constructing the plot of this book within it - echoes of Godel, perhaps).

I'd recommend this highly and I'm looking forward to the sequel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing thriller, 6 July 2012
This was a well written and tense thriller. It flows very well and can be read very quickly.

The plot is interesting and plausible. The characters are believable and the background and technical details are fascinating. The exposition is never clunky and is well integrated into the narrative.

I did think that it got a bit predictable towards the end.

I really enjoyed this and am looking forward to reading the next one in the series.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice idea but 2-d characters, 9 Mar. 2011
This review is from: This Is Not A Game: You Don't Get a Second Life (Paperback)
I'd never heard of the author before picking up this book although apparently he's been writing for years and been nominated for loads of SF awards. Walter Jon Williams certainly has a fluid and polished writing style and this book flows swiftly and easily.

This is Not a Game focuses on 4 old friends who met while students and were drawn together by their love of role playing games. Fast forward a few years and all four are high tech entrepreneurs all still involved to some degree with games and enjoying varied levels of success. The plot also centres around one of the character's IT company, which specialises in financial software but has a nice sideline in online games that try to merge real world events with fictional plotlines: the participants must engage in crowd-source puzzle solving in order to progress through the game. When genuine real-world events place one of the characters in peril, the online community step in to help.

What follows is a convincing scenario that blends current technology and the world of online games with traditional thriller. I didn't know what to expect when I started this book but I must admit I thought that it would be a more "serious" thriller, perhaps a bit William Gibson-esque. As it stands, I never felt that Williams really nailed any of the main characters and their reactions to the (sometimes pretty shocking) events felt a bit superficial and lacking emotional depth. This meant that while I was reasonably intrigued about how the story panned out, I never really cared what happened to any of the people. I also thought that the ending wrapped things up a little too neatly. If you're looking for an easy read with a neat idea at its heart then this would be a good choice.
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This Is Not A Game: You Don't Get a Second Life
This Is Not A Game: You Don't Get a Second Life by Walter Jon Williams (Paperback - 4 Mar. 2010)
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