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For the Win

Posted by Shawn Boyles On Wednesday, June 01, 2011

FOR THE WIN is Cory Doctorow's novel from last summer. If you have read and liked Doctorow's work in the past, then this book will be just right for you. If not, then I don't think this book will push any buttons that Doctorow's stuff missed in the past. Basically this is the typical Cory Doctorow novel.

The novel is about a bunch of online gamers forming a union.

No, really. That's what it's about. You want more than that? Fine. The story follows several view point characters around the world, all connected by online games (similar to World of Warcraft) that they enjoy playing, but want better rights for the work they do. There's Mala and Yasmin, brilliant young players in the slums of Dharavi. Leonard, or Wei Dong to his Chinese friends, who lives in California and is addicted to the online games and his friends. Matthew and Lu are some of those friends in China trying to get a better deal for their gold farming services. All of their stories have different twists and turns as they evade corrupt cops and ruthless bosses, and eventually bring them all together for the finale. But like I said, this novel is about a bunch of online gamers forming a union.

I read this book initially because I enjoyed Doctorow's LITTLE BROTHER so darn much and I was hoping to get a little more of the same. And I did...partially. Doctorow's writing style is clean and effortless to follow and even during the times when the characters are talking about something totally foreign to me, Doctorow pulls back for a moment to explain in simple terms what's going on. Normally I find this off-putting, but for some reason I like it Doctorow's work. It feels like I'm watching Mythbusters where right before they explode another car into a million pieces they step back to explain the physics of said explosion. There is also still a fun story going on with all the characters. The characters are all interesting and sympathetic and I did find myself wanting to keep reading to see what would happen.

That being said this book didn't delight me the way LITTLE BROTHER did. The fact that it had multiple viewpoints for me was a detraction. In LITTLE BROTHER I was able to really get into the mind of the character. I followed his every move. In FOR THE WIN, the constant changes in viewpoint sometimes had me lost as I tried to keep track of the different people. The negative side-effect here is that it also made it easier to put down for long stretches of time--not good. The viewpoint would switch and I just wouldn't be into the current story so much. The other complaint that I personally had with the novel was the fact that it the entire book dealt with a bunch of gamers. These are people who spent countless hours in their respective video games...and then the novel spends almost no time in the games themselves. I was kind of disappointed in that. It seemed like a fun way to show the lives of these characters. After all, they spend more time in that virtual world and come to think of themselves more in that world than out of it. Why then couldn't we see those fun imaginative games?

Overall FOR THE WIN was a mixed bag for me. I'm not upset that I read it, but it wasn't my favorite book of all time either. Doctorow is a big proponent of sharing his work for free online. He figures that if you really like it you'll go out and buy a copy and support the author. So that's good news for all of you out there. You can go out and read any of Doctorow's books for free right now. If I were you though I would start with LITTLE BROTHER.

Recommended Age: 16+ The plot is a bit complicated and not as action packed as kids might be used to. There's also a bit of language and violence.
Language: Not a ton, but it's there.
Violence: Again not a ton but some. One scene in particular was fairly graphic.
Sex: Mild innuendo.


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