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on 21 February 2013
I am half way through and enjoying the book so much I needed to share. It is a really fun book about first contact, with believable characters who wouldn't be out of place in a cool box set interacting with aliens who are, surprise!, individuals too.

I'm not a gamer but the focus on games still worked for me and was a clever bridge. I did get the 'Hey Ash, what you playing?' reference, which made me wonder how many others I had missed.

Looking forward to his next book already. Such a joyful antidote to the rote formulaic rubbish so many are churning out.
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on 23 March 2013
I haven't enjoyed a book this much for a long time. It is clever, funny, warm, imaginative and deeply moving. I encourage you in the strongest terms to read it.

This book manages the charming balancing act of telling a fun and interesting story about first contact with a subtle examination of human relationships, politics and society. There are layers and layers to enjoy.

The top layer is how Ariel Blum, computer game designer, gets involved in Earth's first contact with extra-terrestrials. I am not a gamer, so I suspect that there is tasty goodness that passed me by, but the book does not require in-depth gaming knowledge to understand or enjoy. This is not a "hard science" piece of science fiction either - though there are plenty of fascinating and interesting concepts scattered throughout - it is more interested in the cultural and social effects of technology - what does humanity mean in the context of a wider, populated universe? It manages to ask these questions via a funny and entertaining plot and even, by the end, offer some thought-provoking answers.

I have just finished reading the book and will definitely continue to think about it, but I wanted to share how much I enjoyed it.
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on 20 July 2013
I really enjoyed the style of the book, being made up of combinations of blog entries, chat sessions and real-world narrative instead of traditional chapters. This made it easy to pick up and read a little bit at a time. It took me a while to get into but then I got quite gripped by it. It certainly takes a more down-to-earth approach to first contact than a lot of other novels and, I thought, realistically portrayed the mundane aspect of how it might happen. I was, however, a bit disappointed with the ending as I felt it left a lot of loose ends and didn't really draw any conclusions.
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on 16 January 2014
This is one of the best science fiction books I've ever read. Superb, laugh-out-loud dialogue, intricate detail, lovable characters, intense geekdom, topical internet and gaming in-jokes - just wonderful.
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I finally caved and bought Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson after hearing yet another endorsement from Cory Doctorow on a podcast. I'm glad I did.

If you're a science fiction fan, who occasionally busts out an emulator to play retro video games but who also likes to have their synapses stretched thinking about how our culture affects us, and how it and we have changed over the years, then this book is tailor-made for you. There's an almost complete absence of what you'd call conventional "action", so that audience might be quite limited.

But it isn't "literary" science fiction, so don't be put off by that. In fact the narrative is primarily delivered through a series of blog posts (it was originally an on-line serial novel, the archive for which is still on-line) and personal email exchanges.

The "hero" of the work is Ariel Blum, a disaffected video game programmer who feels trapped making pony games for pre-teens. Then the aliens arrive and start digging great big holes in the moon.

What follows is similar, if you can imagine, to what might happen if humans tens of millions of years in the future (I don't fancy our chances of lasting that long - also an issue tackled in the book) approached a newly discovered alien race and as part of the outreach to the suddenly no longer alone populace, sent them an Atari VCS emulator and a copy of Space Invaders. Using the ancient video game culture of the various (there are several) alien races that have just appeared is a genius idea that allow the writer to explore not only what makes the aliens tick, but how various previous races reacted to first contact.

What follows is nothing short of brilliant. Several unique alien individuals and races are described and fleshed out. There's humour, there's romance and snappy dialogue. There's everything you could want except for the lack of peril. I don't want to keep going on about that, but I did hit a lull about a third to halfway through when little had happened but by the end I was turning pages compulsively. If you want to try something intelligent, with aliens that are fully realized and with concepts that go beyond the idea that every alien we meet has to be slavering at the mouth fronds and waving a massive blaster then give it a chance.

4.5 out of 5.
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on 13 March 2013
I bought this book based on Cory Doctorow's glowing review (and he certainly knows his stuff). I enjoyed the premise but I found this a really hard book to get through. I guess I like a bit more excitement or action in my SciFi.

I didn't really sympathise with the main character (I didn't like Holden Caulfield either) and I spent the whole book waiting for something dramatic to happen.

Cory described the book as passionate, principled and important. I have to describe it as a hard slog. It's truthful - probably close to what would happen - but it all seems so dull and pedestrian.
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on 26 February 2013
The book starts out as high-speed, irreverent, light hearted comedy/hard scifi. It then gradually morphs into something quite important and touching. Bravo!
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on 7 June 2013
Maybe I'm not the target reader for this book. I found it quite enjoyable but not the brilliant tale that other reviews suggested it would be. Worth reading but not life-changing.
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on 8 March 2013
I loved it, could not put it down, best read I have had in a long time. Really was flawless is pace, content and original idea's

Just wish it was part of a series!.
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on 17 March 2013
What starts as a slight story about alien contact slowly blossoms into something far more satisfying. Funny and poignant .
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