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For the Win [Paperback]

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review by Bibliotropic [...] April 6 2011
If somebody walked up to me and said, "I have a book I know you're going to love. It's all about economics, labour unions, and the unfair working conditions in developping countries," I might suspect this person doesn't know my reading tastes very well. Such a book might appeal to those with specific interests, but me, well, that's not my thing.

And then this person would hand me For the Win, and I'd be intrigued because it involves gaming, something I'm familiar with. And then I'd read it, and be blown away.

That's Doctorow's genius in this book. He can take all of the above concepts and make them not only interesting, but make them into something that anyone can relate to, especially today's game-happy youth culture. He can take economics and break them down into the simply complex and absurd things that they are, and make it comprehensible. He makes the legnths that some companies go to to control virtual wealth seem like what it is: ridiculous and yet incredibly valuable. This book makes you look at the world, see it in a different light, and get outraged that it isn't better. It's hard-hitting, heartbreaking, and like the games it talks about, endlessly entertaining.

The characters are, above all else, wonderfully human. There are sides of right and wrong, and the lines are clearly drawn, but the people on the side of good are still flawed, violent and angry and they make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes end up fatal. These are people you could pass on the street, could see at school; they don't have to be half a world away in some poorly-ventilated sweatshop, and that just seeks to underscore the message of labour equality that's the main focus of the novel. "There are no Chinese workers. There are just workers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of For The Win by Cory Doctorow Jan. 17 2012
By Zafri M. TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Review of For The Win by Cory Doctorow

Characterization: 6/10
Is it easy to empathize for the characters in this novel? Yes. Is it easy to understand their individual problems (at least in concept if not in reality)? Sure. Am I able to remember all of the main characters' names a few days after reading the novel? No. But that's fine. The characters serve as vessels to carry the plot along and reveal Doctorow's views on contemporary life and/or issues related to technology. Part of the problem may be that the viewpoint is constantly shifting, but I'm not sure why this might be an issue seeing as I'm used to reading books like ASOIAF. As soon as the book began I was immediately hooked on the problems that Matthew Fong, Mala, and Leonard 'Wei-Dong' Goldberg faced. Each of the characters is flawed in their own way, and since perfect characters annoy me nearly as much as driving in traffic, I'm quite happy with this aspect of the book.

Plotting and Pacing: 3.5/5 and 4/5
Broken into two parts, the plot shows individuals struggling as individual gears in the giant, worldwide mechanism that MMORPGs create. The plots in Doctorow's novels never seem to become as epic or violent as the leadup to the climax leads me to expect, but that is understandable given that these are meant to be YA novels. That's not to say that the plot isn't well crafted, with twists and turns, complications and reversals. It is. But it IS still rather simple in design. Still, I'm always left with the annoying feeling that I want to read more about the characters and what happens next, but I am always left floundering as, as far as I know, Doctorow is sticking to standalone novels (this says something about how good his books are).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  54 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thoroughly Enjoyable Tale That Nonetheless Feels a Bit Michael Bay-Ish May 13 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
First, thanks are due to the author for his continued decision to release his works free on the Internet. Traditional media would believe it counterintuitive: why would consumers pay for something free? Counterintuitive or not, it works: it reduces the barrier to entry for a consumer. I first got my taste for Doctorow's writing with a free download, but it's one I enjoyed enough that his books -- in traditional form -- reside on my bookshelves and have survived several culls of my collection. Something to consider, publishers.

I may give younger readers too little credit, but this book is lengthy. That's something enjoyable to an adult, as it gives the complex stories time to develop and weave together. But as the book is supposedly oriented towards young adults, I wonder whether the novel's length will prove a barrier to completion.

The book reminds me of other polemic fiction I've read whose main theme is the portrayal of the triumph of a particular political ideal. This plays to one of Doctorow's strengths -- his zealotry. Doctorow believes in his ideals and thus crafts his characters so they do.

Additionally, Doctorow has a particular knack, very enjoyable for the reader, of putting together ideas in a way that have the ring of common sense, yet in a way in which they hadn't quite yet been put together -- a certain "sticky", memorable way that sits easily in the brainpan. Certainly, reputation economics has been around since time immemorial ... but only Doctorow termed it "whuffie" in his first novel, and since then, that's what many people know it as. That knack is in full display in this novel.

Still, for this reviewer, the "triumph" of this particular political ideal ended up also causing problems with suspension of disbelief. Despite my desire to be optimistic about the world, this book displays a grand-scale triumph over big business interests -- and an act of enlightened behavior on big business' part -- that I just don't see happening in reality. Of course, that opinion may easily be attributable to cynical elements within my own worldview, and, given that this is a young adult book, hopefully such elements will not have had as much time to take root in younger readers.

An additional "flaw" I found is one on a larger scale: Doctorow's novels have recently begun trending more towards polemics, and away from individual character growth and development. When I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Eastern Standard Tribe, or Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, it is clear I'm witnessing events happening to a single character, a life experience that involves growth and development, set in a Doctorow "geek world" I'd love to inhabit with Doctorow-style geek characters I'd love to have in my life. The geek relationships in those books are reminiscent of one of my most favorite books, Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland ... and that's one of the best compliments I can give an author.

Nowadays, though, the brush he's wielding with Makers, Little Brother, and now this novel -- it is one that strikes me as far more broad and less subtle. To borrow film directors as an analogy, Doctorow seems to be writing in the style of Michael Bay lately, instead of character studies such as one might see with Scorsese or Kubrick.

I'd like to see him work more towards those character studies he first worked with. I hope to see him work more with the framework of characters interacting in near-future worlds, a framework used in his earlier works, rather than the grand tales of polemic futurepolitik he has recently begun writing.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Please tone down on the proselytizing! Jan. 24 2011
By A. Chow - Published on
Maybe it's just me, but Cory's books are beginning to read like libertarian fanfiction. As with Makers, this book was didactic and segued into "let's study economics" a little too often for my liking. As always, the bad guys are demonized and the good guys get all the sympathetic ink.

"Heavy-handed" is the word one would use for Cory's books. I applaud the clarity of the writing--there is no way to mistake what Cory's trying to say--but if there's one thing that turns me off, it's preaching. Little Brother was the strongest of all Cory's books, and on the strength of that (and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) I have given all his books a chance, but honestly, the pedantism throughout Makers was a letdown, and For the Win did not score a Win with me for the same reason. Cory needs to cut down on the lecturing, stat.

I think I'm done with Cory's books for life unless he pulls out something significantly different in the future. Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with the gold farmers and I deplore the exploitation that occurs, but I read For the Win hoping he would describe a solution (as he did in Little Brother). I was at least all right with the way Makers ended. With For The Win, I had the distinct feeling the ending was a cop-out. I am not impressed.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For The Win is a Definite Win May 21 2010
By S. Baskin - Published on
You can't sum up For The Win, by comparing it to other books. Instead when you think of it you have to take pieces from many different entertainment icons. For example when I try to describe For The Win, I would compare it to a combination of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Halo, and the movie The Sting. Only after having considered all of these pieces can you get an inkling of what For The Win is like.

And yet it is more than all of that. For The Win also included important and accurate descriptions of financial definitions and schemes, such as buying futures, economies of scale, and even a ponzi scheme. But these inter-chapters detailing financial issues are critical to understanding the book, and so I was amazed at how well Doctorow is able to convey these issues to the reader.

But as I mentioned For The Win is more than that. It is an enthralling action packed novel that has detailed memorable characters, detailed plot twists, and an engaging story. Because of this I would recommend this book to anyone, teen or adult, as it is an exceptional novel that both teaches and entertains, a rare feat in any book. And so everyone should go out and get it today.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big Sister and the Slumdog Supermonkeys May 11 2010
By Keris Nine - Published on
Cory Doctorow's gospel of the brave new world of the future that isn't all that far removed from today continues with For The Win. Like the novel that preceded it, Makers, which proposed a consumer-led society and a necessarily flexible business model with no great vision other than to churn out disposable crap and cater to nostalgia through self-evolving theme park rides, many will also "blame" the author here for not giving them a more idealistic, utopian society that they believe the rapid advancements in technology should bring, rather than the continually dumbed-down one that is more likely to be the case.

Doctorow is not here to offer any comforting visions in For The Win, finding instead a near-future where it's gamers who call the shots and potentially earn the big bucks, even if it is just virtual gold in worldwide-networked computer games. When you think about it, is this any less unlikely a scenario than banks and investors trading in "virtual" stocks and shares with your borrowed money? It's a potential economic "reality" that Charles Stross has already recognised in his novel Halting State, considering the impact that the robbery of a weapons store in a computer game can have on the players and the business who need to protect their customer's interests and investments - even if that investment is nothing more than virtual treasures, weapons and gold.

Similarly with "a connection to the net and a brain in your head", in For The Win, there's money to be made in the virtual world of Svartalfheim, Mushroom Kingdom or Zombie Mecha for enterprising gamers, gold farmers, willing to collect precious objects, weapons and powers that can be speculated upon and traded with other players too lazy to do it themselves, or just looking for an easy entry into a popular game without having to put the necessary hard work and the hours into it. Not unsurprisingly, the workers earning the little money that this brings in are all based in China, India and Indonesia, and they are exploited, much in the same way as today by the greed of the Western world. The net can however also make it possible for those exploited workers to join up and form a powerful global union and maybe do something about it.

And again, Doctorow is absolutely right. Ok, so maybe the computer game will not become the stock market of the future (some people do unfortunately take Doctorow a little bit too literally, regarding him as some kind of prophet) but the principle is sound, the author considering historical examples of economic theory and extrapolating on how this could be affected by a new global community with new rising economic forces and the potential offered by great advances in technology. When I say "gospel" however, Doctorow can be annoyingly preachy at times, using his characters more as mouthpieces than real people, having one sit down with another and condescendingly explain economic theory in kiddie terms. Ultimately, the ideas take precedence over the story - the characters are interesting, but never come to life when they are used as little more than sentimental pawns - but the lesson is an interesting one and it's one worth going over in detail in order to consider where the future might take us, or whether to a large extent we're not already there.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Entirely too preachy and heavy handed to enjoy April 19 2011
By James - Published on
The core plot concepts here have promise, but Cory's execution is severely lacking. At nearly every step the reader is hit over the head with Cory's didactic moralizations around average workers' right to demand equality to their bosses and owners of the businesses for which they work.

Let me be clear: It is not this point of view that turned me off from the book. I quite enjoy Ken Macleod's books because he is able to weave these sorts of social issues seamlessly into his plot and characterization. On the other end of the social spectrum, I enjoyed "The Unincorporated Man" quite a bit too, even though it was far less subtle. The problem in "For the Win" is Cory's ham-handed approach that also drastically over-simplifies the issues on display. I might enjoy or at least endure a momentum-halting half-dozen pages of workers-rights arguments if they were well-reasoned, but it all comes off as a massive straw-man, and the over simplification put these sections on nearly the level of laughable argumentation that is the paragon of such awful fiction, Atlas Shrugged.

For an interesting concept that lacked execution, but at least wasn't as horrible as Rand's door-stop manifesto, I'll give 2 stars.
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