01/05/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Orbit. 369 page enlarged paperback. Price: £11.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-657-3.
check out websites: www.orbitbooks.net and www.walterjonwilliams.net
This is not a book about reality. This is not a book about computer games. This might be something in between the two. Walter Jon Williams' latest offering 'This Is Not A Game' is set on our Earth of the near future mixing events of on-line computer gaming and corporate brinkmanship with murder attached.
Oddly, other than discussion groups and a little about setting problems for the game, The Long Night Of Briana Hall, we don't really see much of it other than supposed to be drawing comparisons to reality as heroine Dagmar Shaw uses her gamers to test various scenarios they come up with.
The first time happens when she is stuck in Jakarta during a coup. The rescue plan that her boss Charlie Ruff organises through some mercenaries falls down but the connectors and ideas and connections of the on-line computer gamers come to the rescue. This sets the pattern for the main part of the book which, in many respects as a basic plot, could work in present day reality where various people associated with Dagmar are killed and she has to figure out who the murderer is. As this is not a game, I can say too much about that without giving spoilers but as the sub-title of the book suggests, this is one game you can only play once.
Oddly, Williams' depiction of the Jakarta situation is better realised than the later part of the book. Not that there is anything wrong with that end of the book but more to do with the intimacy of pending danger where Dagmar has to cope. With the latter part, she becomes more the instigator of sorting her problems out and the reader is there for the ride so to speak.
If anything, not seeing much of the game itself to draw parallels clearly leans on Williams' strengths as a character writer than any real knowledge of on-line gaming. Then again, I wonder how many on-line gamers read fiction when they'd rather play it? I doubt if there's much in the way of middle-ground in all of this but Williams has made a novel that you can sit down and read, content that this is a book being lined up for a sequel if he chooses to write one.
The clues are in the book to work out who did what to who and if you follow Williams' story you should be able to draw the same conclusions as Dagmar herself before it is actually revealed. This is not a game but a book and a reasonably sound page-turner.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA