This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams

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This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: A competent page-turner blending near-future science-fiction with a conspiracy thriller, and making a good use of the nascent phenomenon of Alternate Reality Games. Decent enough entertainment despite a poor resolution and recommended for gamers and ex-gamers, while a possibility for other fans too.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841496573

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Dagmar is trapped in a hotel, with rioting Jakarta burning around her. When the conventional attempts to get her out fail, she decides to request help form the Group Mind: the on-line community of gamers who participate in Alternate Reality Games: games that happen in real life, not on the computer screen or over the Internet. Dagmar writes such games, working for Charlie, a phenomenally successful owner of a software company.

Dagmar's and Charlie's friendship goes way back to college, and this is when they also met Austin, the venture capitalist and BJ, now relegated to a call centre and supplementing his income with gold farming in MMORPGs.

When Austin gets killed by a hired assassin and Charlie goes into hiding, Dagmar starts to suspect things might be a little more complicated than they seem.

Her new ARG will blend fiction and reality on a scale unknown before, and sometimes even the puppet masters don't know when one ends and the other begins. But, as one of the players asks, does it really matter?

Williams' story is a blends near-future science-fiction, a conspiracy thriller, a peek at the slightly bizarre world of gamers and a rather topically relevant (and one can't help but think, slightly satirical) look at the crumbling financial system.

As in a lot of more geeky science-fiction, the characters are not the strongest point of This is Not a Game, although Williams attempts to give his main protagonist Dagmar a modicum of depth. The villain is particularly disappointing and revealed to early, and others are rather flat and wooden. Even Dagmar, paradoxically, seems to lose rather than gain definition as the novel progresses.

But such techno-thrillers are driven by the combination of the intrigue and the core ideas, and overall This is Not a Game delivers reasonably well in this department. Both the ARG milieu and the notion of independently evolving software agents let loose in the system are used naturally and believably in the story, without unnecessary exposition and to good effect.

The plot is more uneven: initially quite original and suspenseful, in the later parts of the book it deteriorated into a cliché-ridden formula. The ending was rather disappointing and was the main reason for my removal of a half of a rating star from otherwise satisfactory read.

A competent page-turner nevertheless, This is Not a Game is an entertaining if not exactly ground breaking and comes recommended for gamers or those with a gamer's inclinations, and cautiously recommended for all who enjoy near-future technological speculation.

The review copy was sent to the Book bag by the publisher - thank you!

Both Halting State and Spook Country explore the same regions with more style and more depth, but in perhaps a less immediately accessible way.

Buy This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams at Amazon.co.uk


Buy This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams at Amazon.com.

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