27 March, 2011

Book Review: For The Win

Title: For The Win (Read/download for free HERE)
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Genre: Speculative Fiction/Realistic Fiction/Science Fiction
Page Count: 475
Rating: 4.8 out of 5
Cover Rating: 3.8 out of 5. 

Inside flap:
At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual gold, jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, millions of "gold farmers", trapped by abusive contracts and physical threats, toil in electronic sweatshops in the world's poorest countries, harvesting virtual treasure that their employers sell to First World gamers for real money.   Mala is a brilliant fifteen-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned the nickname "General Robotwalla". In Shenzhen, heart of China's industrial boom, Matthew defies his former bosses to build his own gold-farming crew. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California and spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia. All of these young people, and more, become entangled with the mysterious woman called Big Sister Nor, who builds them into a movement to challenge the status quo.   Fighting pitched battles in the slums of Mumbia, in the red-light district of Singapore, in Sound China's enormous industrial cities, and in the virtual worlds of every MMORPG worth playing, Nor's network of gamers is so successful that it incurs ruthless opposition from organized crime, from Western corporations, and from the Chinese authorities. Ultimately, Big Sister's people devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once--a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant pack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all.

My expectations: I'd heard a lot about Cory Doctorow's books, mostly in the form of rave comments about Little Brother. I might review that some other time--I really didn't like it. However, at the time, I hadn't read anything else by him so my expectations were pretty much in the air.

About the book: In my opinion, this is one of the best, and one of the very few, Young Adult books on this sort of subject: inequality. There are not many books geared for teens that bring attention to workers' rights or macroeconomics or the virtual economy. I might not agree with everything said and done, but I have to admire the way it was put together and written. It is an original novel, and in a world where much YA is the same, it's a great change.

Cory Doctorow's writing style is not at any extreme. Not to much description, not too little description, the dialogue flows reasonably well. His writing cuts to the point, which makes his books fast and easy to read.

  • Plot:

The plot moves fast. Things happen right after the other, and with all the varying viewpoints there are a lot of intertwining storylines; around the world, something is happening to and around the characters. I love the ending on this book--it left questions to be answered, but still managed to tie up everything well.

  • Characters:
Wei-Dong, AKA Leonard Goldberg, was an interesting character. I found him too arrogant and irresponsible to truly like, but he did some noteworthy things throughout the story. It was also interesting to read the overall perspective on American teens (as he is one) and culture in the story.

Matthew was, again, not someone I was ready to fall in love with, but fascinating to read about. He was a real character, a teen forced into rather horrible working conditions and made to do whatever his boss told him to do.

I liked Jie. She had spunk and determination, and she really tried to change things by spreading the word about protests and rallies. She was also ready to risk her life for what she thought was right and had to be done--something I love to see in a protagonist, particularly a female one.

Mala was not Jie. She was tough and hard at the start, caring, mostly, only about herself and a certain group who stayed loyal to her. However, I liked the way she developed throughout the book and eventually turned out as someone much better than before.

There were a lot of other characters. Most of them had to do with the above-mentioned people, and most of them were the same kind: not characters to love, but to pay attention to and focus on because what they're doing and saying has its value.

  • Setting/Elements:
The presentation of Western culture is not positive. Americans and others are shown as ignorant, blind, and mostly greedy people who will do anything for money and power--particularly those at the top who run the gaming companies and the virtual economies "gold farms" and other such things are based on.

Other: Violence (both virtual and physical), a lot of it having to do with protests/demonstrations/rallies; references; some language.

Do I recommend this book? Yes. This is a fascinating look at something not often covered in Young Adult--or in any other age group--and is very much worth the read.

-----The Golden Eagle


....Petty Witter said...

Speculative fiction - not a genre I have heard of before now.

Thanks for such an indepth review of what sounds like a very different type of read.

Brian said...

That is quite a nice review and an interesting topic to boot!

The Words Crafter said...

What an interesting concept for a book, especially YA. I've never heard of this author, but the book does look fascinating. Thanks for posting this!

Nas Dean said...

What a nice, interesting review! The book looks fascinating and intriguing!

Old Kitty said...

Did I read "free"?!!?!? I've not clicked on the link but I will now!!!! Hey it's free and it sounds amazing and comes highly recommended by you!!!!

Thanks for the review and info and link!!! Take care

Edith F. said...

I knew about the sale of virtual goods or money in some RPGs, but I had no idea there was such a thing as "gold farming." Thanks for bringing this up. The book sounds intriguing and you can't beat free! :D

~Edith @ Observatory of the Quotidian

Hannah Kincade said...

Doctorow has been on my list for ages. I have a few of his books on my ereader. I will have to check him out. Thanks for the review!

Charles Gramlich said...

Never read anything by him but I've heard good things.

Susan Kane said...

Good review--shows a great understanding of the genre and a passion for a good read.

Simon Kewin said...

Thanks for that - I do like Doctorow and will definitely seek this one out.

Susan Fields said...

This sounds like a very interesting topic and quite original. Thanks for the review!

Alleged Author said...

I love that this book is multi-cultural. Did the author do a good job of characterizing the different cultures?

The Golden Eagle said...

Tracy: Sub-genres confuse me a lot that way--there are just so many of them. :P

Brian: Thanks!

It does cover interesting subjects!

The Words Crafter: Not many YA books bother with economics; but I find it intriguing. And a lot more attention-grabbing than vampires, at any rate. :D

You're welcome!

Nas: Thank you!

It is a good book.

Old Kitty: Yup, it's free! :)

You're welcome! I hope you enjoy For the Win if you do get the chance to read it.

Edith: You're welcome! I hadn't heard about most of the RPG stuff before I read this book--so almost everything in it was new. :P


Hannah: He's a good author--although I did not like Little Brother. Everyone was acting irrationally in that book.

You're welcome!

Charles: One thing I find interesting about his books is that they covers things that most YA books avoid, like government/politics/social issues.

Susan: Thank you! :)

Simon: You're quite welcome! :)

Susan: It is an interesting subject for a YA novel to focus on--he goes into issues that many books don't, even Adult.

Alleged Author: He did, actually. There was distinction between the Chinese, Indians, Americans, and people of other nationalities in this story. That's something I really liked about it.

Maria McKenzie said...

Great review! Not what I usually read, but sounds interesting:).

N. R. Williams said...

Interesting. As I read the blurb I thought, this one isn't for me, I'm not a gamer, but your input made me reconsider. I may read it after all.
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

Paul C said...

Interesting to read an overview of such a popular author. One can understand now how and why he got there.

Theresa Milstein said...

I agree with The Words Crafter. It is an interesting concept for a book. I'm looking it up right now. Thanks!

Joanna St. James said...

my cp would love this book am forwarding your blog link to her.

Anonymous said...

Almost sounds like a Dystopian element is involved int the plot and setting. Sounds like my kind of read overall. Just wish I had time to read more.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to read this!

laughingwolf said...

i should read this, if only to see how thinking has changed in this area... thx ge :)

Beth said...

Really thoughtful review and I'm impressed with the author. It's hard to conquer these kind of issues in a book geared for teens, because they are things a lot of teens won't experience until they're in adulthood

Tyrean Martinson said...

Hey, great post! By the Way, check out my blog from last Thursday and pick up an award!

Anonymous said...

great blog If you are the type to update your blog regulary, then you have gained one daily reader in me today. keep up the super work.

The Golden Eagle said...

Maria: Thank you!

It is quite interesting!

Nancy: I'm not a gamer, either--a lot of what they talked about was completely new to me. :P

Paul: True. Apparently, he's very influential--he won a lot of awards, for both his writing and other projects that had to do with the Internet and online security (as I recall).

Theresa: You're welcome! :)

Joanna: I hope your crit partner enjoys the book! Thanks for spreading the word.

Stephen: It's not really Dystopian--the world the characters live in is much like our own, only there's a lot of emphasis on gaming.

Medeia: Well, it's free! :D

Laughingwolf: You're welcome!

Beth: A lot of teens (not me, though) game--so they'd come into contact with that aspect to the story.

Tyrean: Thanks!

I'll be sure to post about it Thursday, before the A-Z Challenge kicks in--thank you so much for the award! :D

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

I'm a social justice advocate, and I've like a few of Doctorow's titles as well, so this one sounds right up my alley! Downloading as I type! :)