Review: For the Win by Cory Doctorow

14 Jul

For the WinMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the first half of this book, but for me, the second half bogged down some.  I still enjoyed it, but wasn’t unhappy for it to end.

Imagine a world a few years forward from ours. On-line gaming is a really, really big deal. The amount of money moving around within the games is huge. It’s all play money, of course. Except there are significant numbers of people willing to trade real money for it.

“Gold farms” are a booming business– groups spend long hours playing to earn game cash and other rewards, which then get sold to players looking for a boost. At first glance, it seems like a dream come true– get paid to play video games. However, sweatshop conditions for these farmers take the pleasure away, and the demanding bosses with out of game enforcers take away the possibility of starting your own business.

The book follows several people:

Matthew is a young man in China, who is attempting to set up his own crew farming gold. His old bosses are not pleased.

Wei-Dong is an American high school student. He’s renamed himself to fit in better with his Chinese buddies he plays with all night. He finds himself living on his own when he runs away from his family, who are about to ship him to a school that will help him stay on track, away from any distractions.

Mala lives in India, and commands her own army of players. When they first are offered money to play, it seems too good to be true. They find themselves deeper and deeper in a situation far less pleasant than expected.

More characters are introduced throughout the book, and I was overwhelmed by them all near the end. There were so many, each with a role to play.

At the beginning of the book, I loved the look at the interplay between the real and gaming worlds. The look at the meaning of money was fascinating and thought provoking. Bringing in politics and unions also kept causing me to stop and think about it. When the game-makers views of the issues were added, I loved seeing that side. Eventually, it got to be a little too much.

Overall, that’s my opinion of the book– too much of too many good things.  Maybe if I hadn’t been on vacation at the time.

For the Win has so much going for it, but I’m still reluctant to recommend it to my husband (who reads very little fiction these days) and my daughter.   However, the reasons are different for each.  I think both would like the world inside the games.  My husband would love the economics and politics, but get bogged down in the collection of characters.  Reverse that for my daughter. I think I’ll try them on Doctorow’s Little Brother (which I loved, and has been sitting on my husband’s shelf for over a year now.  I need to catch my daughter when she is bored and hand it to her).   It never bogs down!

For other views of this book, check out

I received this book from Tor.  I’d requested it for review, and I’d also entered a drawing on their site.  The book arrived without any accompanying information, so I don’t know which route was successful, but I’m thankful either way!


Posted by on July 14, 2010 in books, reviews


Tags: , , ,

5 responses to “Review: For the Win by Cory Doctorow

  1. Trisha

    July 14, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    “Too much of too many good things” can certainly be a problem.

  2. bermudaonion

    July 17, 2010 at 5:14 am

    Too bad this gets bogged down during the second half of the book. I loved hearing Doctorow speak at BEA and I thought my son might like this book.

  3. Julie P.

    July 17, 2010 at 5:21 am

    Congrats on the win! I heard Mr. Doctorow speak at BEA (and I saw him again at ALA.) I’m very curious about his writing. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Laura Fabiani

    July 17, 2010 at 7:48 am

    What an interesting premise for the storyline. I’ve never read this author. Thanks for the review.


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