(It’s a flat-out endorsement.)
After a brief interlude of historical fiction and some steampunk sf, I’m back to hard science fiction with Walter Jon Williams’s fantastic This Is Not a Game. For plot summary, a blurb from Publisher’s Weekly:
Williams weaves intriguing questions about games, gamers and their relationships with real life into this well-paced near-future thriller. Game designer Dagmar specializes in creating alternate reality games that muddle the line between fantasy and reality.
Trapped in riot-torn Jakarta, she reaches out to the gamer community for help. Once back in Los Angeles, Dagmar is caught up in a web of murders and financial manipulation that she begins to blend into her latest game, using the community of players to solve clues and sift through large amounts of data. The line between real life and the game blurs as the action builds to a satisfying and thoughtful conclusion. Though the technology talk occasionally becomes intrusive, it’s convincingly written; the characters are realistic and absorbing, and the story deeply compelling.
I actually don’t believe that the “technology talk” is intrusive– I’m don’t know terribly much about coding or ARGs (although, I did get involved in one quite accidentally last fall at UA–how impressive is it that University Libraries has a gaming department?), but the insider’s look was both interesting and pretty integral to the plot.
Overall (and as I reviewed on Facebook): Really impressive, 4.5 stars
I felt like I was reading a cross between David Louis Edelman and Cory Doctorow (scheming Natch-like tech tycoons and a much more self assured Jara, in a Makers-like world of failing economies and clever hackers), which can only be good. But the book is absolutely original, and the prose so clever it had me laughing out loud a couple times. Characterization was great, and as for the plot, it was simply… devious.