- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Harper Voyager (12 May 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007352018
- ISBN-13: 978-0007352012
- Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 3.8 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: 47 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,332,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
For the Win Hardcover – 12 May 2010
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A provocative and exhilarating tale of teen rebellion against global corporations from the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother -- a call to arms for a new generation.
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For the Win takes place in the near future, when multiplayer online games--descendants of Everquest and World of Warcraft have continued to rise in popularity.
Gold farmers work long hours under harsh conditions to harvest digital items and currency from the games so they can be sold for real cash. When they realize they are being mistreated, they begin to come together and fight for their rights, in both the real world and in their virtual world.
The story of unions, economics, and video games that Doctorow has created is exciting and eye-opening. It will probably appeal most to nerdier, technology-oriented types with an interest in the money game that makes the world go 'round, but almost anyone could find something to enjoy here.
That could be this world to. It is the basic plot of Cory Doctorow's epic new novel. But the book is more than that. It reminds me of Dickens in its breadth and its portrayal of rotten working conditions, grotesque bosses and lives blighted by poverty. Or - and this is an intensely political book (in a good way) - Engel's The Condition of the Working Class in England. The portrayal is vivid and includes stories and episodes that read very much as taken from life. But, of course, the point is not to understand the world but to change it. Doctorow introduces us to a cast of characters - union organizer Big Sister Noor, Jiandi, a broadcaster in China (who also describes herself as sister to the factory girls who she advises on her underground radio show); Mala and Yasmin, living in the slums of Bombay - who are determined to change things. Hard choices cannot be avoided. The option of absolution - of saying "this is terrible, I'm so sorry, please forgive but I can't get involved" - is disdainfully refused. "Which side are you on?" this book asks.
Linking all these vividly drawn characters is the world of gaming, which is not only what they do but how they meet. Doctorow doesn't see the gamers as passively consuming their games and needing to be roused to the real world but as a force within their game worlds and so in the real world.
Nor does he see the two worlds as distinct. Life is play, play is life. "It's all a game" says one character. "Everyone plays it because they've played it all their lives." There are echoes of another book I read recently New Model Army in which the Army of the title is an assembly of citizen soldiers, providing their own weapons and directing their tactics by a form of Wifi enabled democracy - not unlike the gamers in "For the Win. In fact, amidst a lecture about the "Coase cost", the cost of organizing an enterprise or project, Doctorow makes the link. "big institutions with a lot of money and power can overcome high Coase costs: a government can put 10,000 soldiers on the battlefield.. you and you buddies cannot..." That book is well worth a read for one take on what could happen when citizens gain the power to mobilize like that. "For the Win" presents another.
While it might sound unlikely that a story with such a central political message - and which frequently steps aside from plot for lectures on inflation, the place of gold in economics, organizational theory and always, always more politics - can also be a page turner, it is. Thought provoking, entertaining, exciting - a book that, once picked up, is hard to put down again till you're finished.
Like all Doctorow's books, this one revolves around a clever plot, a brilliant theory about how the world might be in future, that challenges and fascinates the reader. It's original, global in scale, and well executed, with a believable cast of characters. A small group of diverse individuals are brought together by a desire to demand better working conditions, and recreate the workers revolutions of past centuries in a new global way, within an online world where the fighters are the online avatars of the real people. But the virtual world is controlled by the real one, and soon those fighters, wherever in the world they really are, are directly under threat from the authorities. The book illustrates how people can have common interests despite being from very different backgrounds.
I enjoyed the book, because the theory and the idea fascinated me enough to hold my interest until the book got going, and the action began. But there are flaws here. The book is too long, and takes too long to get beyond the introduction of the different groups of characters and their grievances, and into the real action. The economic theory was mostly familiar to me, so I skimmed over it, barely noticing it. But it came in chunks at intervals that slowed down the book, and threw the reader out of the story and into an economics textbook. And I'm not sure that anyone who wasn't already familiar with most of it would be able to follow this book, despite its inclusion. Needing to read it might have been the final straw convincing someone to give up on this book altogether.
Finally, the ending was weak. One of the difficulties of creating an epic, global battleground (even a semi virtual one!) is that resolving the whole thing believably is very difficult, and so it proved here - it all felt like a bit of an anti-climax. Despite the flaws though, I loved this book because it (like "Little Brother" - a much better Doctorow novel) is original, and distinctively the product of this particular author - no-one writes in quite the same style or with the same amazing ideas.
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The book charts a possible near future for mmorpgs, their creators and even the people who play and work within the virtual...Read more