Sounds complicated doesn’t it? Aside from this being pitched to me as dystopia (which, honestly, doesn’t actually describe it very well) and being written by Cory Doctorow whose last book LITTLE BROTHER kept me up all night reading, I was skeptical. I have never been the least bit interested in gaming (unless you count a tetris addiction and a brief infatuation with The Legend of Zelda in the early 90s), and FOR THE WIN is long – around 500 pages.
But, while I was reading this, I LOVED every second of it. Doctorow concocts a sprawling narrative following a bunch of different characters (mostly gamers), and some of the time, the storytelling takes a back seat to pages of Doctorow telling you stuff about economic theory, finance, labor unions and confidence scams. While I can imagine this won’t interest everyone, I found it freakishly fascinating (but then, I’ve always had a thing for applied economics).
Doctorow also writes some very compelling scenes, like when Wei-Dong (real name Leonard) smuggles himself and a pimped out shipping container from LA to China or when Lu escapes a police raid into the arms of an underground broadcasting star who features him on her show. I even enjoyed the scenes “in world”, when the characters were on quests to farm gold, even though logically I should probably hate that sort of thing.
And he’s funny! He writes passages like this:
“The rest of the time, Connor’s job was to work on his Fingerspitzengefuhl. That was a useful word. It was a German word, of course. The Germans had words for everything, created by the simple expedient of bashing as many smaller words as you needed together until you got one monster mouth-murderer like Fingerspitzengefuhl that exactly and precisely conveyed something no other language could even get close to.” p 234It was only after I put the book down, after the spell Doctorow had me under was broken, did I start to think back on some of the weaknesses – such as the uneven character development. Doctorow has a tendency to treat his characters like avatars and switch between them depending on who is most convenient to get his point across at that point in the story, without much consideration for their particular character arc. I kept asking myself questions like, what ever happened to x?
My rating? Certainly not for everyone, but I’ll give it 4 Zombie Chickens.
Find out more, and even download your own free copy (really, Doctorow WANTS you to), at the author’s website.
See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore