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For the Win
Cory Doctorow
Tor, 480 pages

For the Win
Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow was born in Toronto, in 1971. He has sold fiction since the age of 17. His story, "Craphound," was published in Science Fiction Age. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was his first novel.

Cory Doctorow Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Makers
SF Site Review: Makers
SF Site Review: Little Brother
SF Site Review: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town
SF Site Review: Eastern Standard Tribe
SF Site Review: A Place So Foreign
SF Site Review: Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom

Past Feature Reviews
A review by D. Douglas Fratz

Cory Doctorow's new novel, For the Win, provides an interesting near future tale of a labor revolution that changes the world.  And who are the players in this revolution?  The surprising answer is: players of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, also known as MMOMPGs, that resemble World of Warcraft

  Doctorow assembles a worldwide cast of characters to participate in the world-changing events of his novel, from California to China, from India to Indonesia.  Among others, we have:

Teenage MMOMPG players in India and China who are part of gold farming teams that play games to obtain valuable virtual objects for sale to lazy Western players, with corrupt bosses that are so ruthless and relentlessly evil that their violent overthrow is inevitable.

A teenage gamer in Southern California playing the games with Chinese gold farmers for fun, whose father is a shipping magnate, allowing him to secretly sneak into China to join the revolution first-hand, and thereby provide a Western viewpoint character.

A beautiful, smart and charismatic former Chinese garment worker girl who has become a pirate on-line radio star and keeps one step ahead of the ruthless Chinese police who absolutely want to stop her from teaching her former young comrades how to avoid rape and lesser forms of exploitation, who is supported by Hong Kong corporate sponsors that absolutely hate the mainland Chinese government.

Radical Indonesian labor union organizers, who discover the plight of the gold farmers, and decide that a sweat shop is a sweat shop, whether virtual or real.

Western financial traders -- purveyors of credit default swaps -- who don't hesitate to create financial derivatives based on virtual economies and leverage them as much as possible before selling them far and wide.

Net security experts for multi-national corporations who own MMORPGs who grossly underestimate the capabilities of third-world gold miners.

Some of this might seem a bit hard to believe.  But Cory Doctorow has made For the Win a fascinating book to read, even if you are not currently involved in gaming.  It's a fine thematic sequel to Little Brother, his earlier novel of techno-geek rebellion, even if it is a bit too massive.  Its many teenage and twenty-something protagonists are well characterized -- especially the gold farmers in India (Mala, aka General Robotwallah, and her first lieutenant Yasmin) and China (Matthew and Lu).  

  It's worth the trouble to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride.

Copyright © 2010 D. Douglas Fratz

D. Douglas Fratz has more than forty years experience as editor and publisher of literary review magazines in the science fiction and fantasy field, and author of commentary and critiques on science fiction and fantasy literature and media.

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