For the Win Paperback
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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).Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
"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.
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.
An interesting premise, perhaps, but there is little that is especially original or ground-breaking about it. In fact the majority of the action takes place in the real world, not the virtual one, and aside from a few brief glimpses at the beginning of the novel, we see remarkably little of the games described - which would not only have been enlightening to less informed readers but might have provided a useful counterpoint to the real world. At the same time, there is little attempt to explore the psychology of the gamers themselves, which might have helped bring the characters to life, and establish greater sympathy for them. It would have been interesting to gain some insight into what attracts players to MMORPGs, and why they invest so much time and effort in them.
Certainly there are some exciting moments - many of the characters are on the run from the authorities, utilising their computing expertise to deliver illicit night-time broadcasts to workers worldwide - but on the whole the plot fails to deliver much drama. The narrative is weighed down by large sections of exposition on economic theory, which demonstrates the depth of Doctorow's research and the extent of his passion, but which is largely unnecessary, quickly becoming tiresome and repetitive while also hindering the pace. The conclusion, too, is strangely anticlimactic, leaving the reader to wonder what ultimately is the novel's message.
This is not to say that Doctorow doesn't present some interesting ideas about both the future of online gaming and of global economics. Nevertheless, in the end "For the Win" remains a long-winded and frustrating novel which never quite manages to live up to its potential.
The book is a weird mixture where parts of it contain gripping action and engaging character while other parts grind to a halt with unrealistic dialog when one or another character goes on and on preaching Doctorow's economic theories. It felt like I was reading a lefty Ayan Rand where John Galt was replaced with a bunch of underage gamers. I think Cory's message is great, but the way it's delivered in this book is very heavy handed. And some of the action simply doesn't make sense (like one of the characters making a long, dangerous "real world" journey to to physically transport something he could have much more easily sent via email).
Doctorow does create a cast of members that you learn to care about. You feel their pain as their friends get hurt and you cheer them on during their victories. Some of the settings are also skillfully created and give you a sense of "being there".
I think the book would have very much benefited from better editing. The various typos and inconsistencies are distracting and make it feel as if it were self published. Some of the language is downright awkward: "... and it was delivered with surprising tenderness, so it was quite a surprise when..."
For all I know, the published version is better edited than the free downloads, but I don't think I'll be checking my library to find out.