Jan 4, 2015

Best Read of December - This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams

I picked this book up because....well I'm not actually sure. It was during Border's going out of business sale many years ago (showing just how slow I am in getting through my to read list). But I think it was because the cover mentioned social networking and man is that up my alley.

This is Not a Game however is less about social networking as it is social gaming. Specifically alternate reality games. You know those spy vacations you can take in New York? Well Dagmar, the main character in this novel, designs alternate reality games that exist on a global level as a marketing venture for clients.

The book starts off with Dagmar being stranded in Indonesia when the currency collapses. She reaches out to the gamer hive mind to help her back home, but they're a little confused. Is it another one of her games? Is this real life? Is the situation real, with Dagmar simply safe in LA?

It took me while, maybe 6 chapters or so to get into this book, but once I did I found myself picking it up more frequently then other books I've had in my hand last month. There's a lot going on; mystery, professional pressure, confusion, murder.  But no romance. I actually really loved that - reading about a professional woman who at the moment has no interest in looking for a guy. Granted, Dagmar has plenty of other issues to worry about, but it was nice to see a female protagonist not worried about her love life.

There are elements of Philip K. Dick, but they're light because the book is told mainly from Dagmar's point of view. Following the puppetmaster, you don't experience a lot of the confusion evident in her gamers' comments. In that regard, the book is less about figuring out reality and more about the morals of playing with it. Where is the line between game and real?

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes traditional games, by which I mean D&D, Settlers, and other tabletop RPGs because the elements of them are everywhere and are linked with the characters. MMORPG players would like this too. If you're into social sci-fi, as opposed to hard sci-fi, you'll find this fun as well.


  1. Sounds great, I've already added it to my to read list :) thanks for sharing.

  2. Sounds great, I've already added it to my to read list :) thanks for sharing.

  3. I've never been a tabletop gamer, but have hung out with lots of gamers, and have done my own sort of rpg stuff (written online). This sounds like a great read!