For The Win

For the Win is a novel by Cory Doctorow. (Who? He’s: one of the founders of Boing Boing; author of several novels; money where his mouth is advocate for digital rights having open sourced all of his books; big time geek.)

I just spent all my free time reading it. More than my free time: reading past midnight, starting again at 4:30 and then being late to work. No, I’m not a fast reader. As I neared the end of the novel a tweet went out, “Cory Doctorow’s “For The Win” – via @creativecommons economic primer and ripping great read.” Unconstrained by 140 characters I can add it also imparts lessons about labor relations, working conditions in south China and SE Asia, and Asian culture (read: street food, living conditions).

(If you read and liked Little Brother skip the rest of this review and go read For the Win. They’re similar.)

OK, so what did I find that was good in the read? Doctorow wove together youthful optimism, economic lessons, youthful rebellion, mafioso criminality, oppressive poverty, unbreakable human spirit and infused them into a group of likeable characters that struggle and prevail. Well, the ones that aren’t maimed or killed by the oppressors prevail. He does the weave and infusion by presenting a story of gold farmers with great attention to detail that makes the fiction read like an extended essay on current events.

In real life millions of $$USD have been transferred from the money rich and time poor to the money impoverished and time rich, mostly in China. In the fictional world of For the Win the workers feel the intermediaries are ripping them off and work to unionise. In the fictional world the cost of getting online for a little gameplay to escape from bleak existence. Once online you can be recognised for your skilled play and recruited into a gold farming operation and earn more money than your plastic garbage sorting parents can. You may read that and think “no way am I suspending my disbelief for that crap.” Consider reading the book to discover how Doctorow makes it believable.

editFor those that read a free (as in beer) version of the book and want to financially support Cory Doctorow are encouraged to buy a copy for a school or library. He keeps a list of schools and libraries that have requested a copy on a FTW donation page.