Trying Not to Blush
And that’s just the first act, because once she’s back stateside, Dagmar’s life soon turns into a nightmare when friends are acquaintances are murdered. It’s clear to her that this is not a game-related development, but the players of her ongoing ARG aren’t so sure. When the police admit that the investigation may tax even their capabilities, Dagmar sees another opportunity to let the group mind of her plays chew on the evidence. But as she eventually discovers, it’s hard to get away from the game once it takes over…
There are four friends from a college RPG group, and they’re grown up. Charlie is a software millionaire, Austin is a venture capitalist, Dagmar is running a company that runs ARGs, and BJ is a failure working on a helpline and gold-farming to make ends meet. Dagmar gets caught up in Indonesia when the currency collapses and civilization breaks down after it. Her online resources and gaming friends turn out to be more help than she would have expected. But “This Is Not A Game.” There’s an interesting line between fiction and reality in a game like that, and while rescuing Dagmar is real, to the players she enlists to help, that almost doesn’t matter. Things get more complicated from there on, everything turns out to be more complex, more connected, and more satisfyingly resolved, than you would imagine possible.
Williams has always been good at extrapolation, and this is a terrific day-after-tomorrow near future. He’s been involved in various “reality” games and deeply understands how they work. The description of putting the game together and the way it works arefascinating and realistic. I often find depictions of gaming in fiction very irritating, but Williams knows why people play and what kind of people they are. Early on he uses a description of the four friends’ gaming styles to illuminate their characters. The forum messages between the gamers are just exactly the way these things work. Incidentally, I haven’t seen character developed through online messages done so well since A Fire Upon the Deep.
The economics and software sides of the book also make sense. It isn’t possible to talk about some of the niftiest stuff without major spoilers, and I’m reluctant to spoil anything at all because the pace at which information is revealed is masterful. Things that don’t look as if they’re connected are connected . . .
Labels: this is not a game