Thursday, August 12, 2010

For The Win

If you have been reading this blog for some time now, or you've gone back to read my earlier posts (for which you ought be saluted), there's a good chance you found my review of Little Brother.
For those of you who haven't, here's what I thought in a nutshell: the book presented powerful, important messages, but they felt pushed, and suffocating beneath layers of syrupy junk. It was as if somebody opened a jar of (rancid!) honey and found diced boiled egg whites. Sure, they're full of protein, but... They're not so appetizing anymore. That's one book I honestly did not like. According to its licensing, though (which is one thing I appreciated) I am grateful that I have the right to edit and redistribute the book as I see fit (and I probably will sometime in the future- must stop procrastinating...).
Cover of FTW
Doctorow has definitely improved in his more recent book, For the Win (or FTW). FTW is about gold farmers*, fair labor, and economics (something I didn't expect to see combined!). In FTW, the farmers come primarily from squalid conditions, employed to scour a thousand virtual worlds in order to find virtual gold. These laborers are the youth of third world countries, and they're getting the short end of stick. Wearing themselves thin (or perhaps I should say thinner) they recieve a little money and much derision from corrupt bosses, adults who threaten the youth into shutting up and making gold. This, however, reaches a tipping point when the oppressed begin to unite, and together they form the IWWWW (International Workers of the World Wide Web), and call themselves the Webblies.
Doctorow himself! The above photograph of Doctorow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license, and is from

I really appreciated this book for several reasons. Foremost is because despite the fact much of it happens in virtual worlds, the situations, protagonists, and story feel real, as if they could erupt in a few short years. Doctorow also managed to give his characters astounding depth, which only contributed to how real the book felt. He depicted with great accuracy conflicts that the characters feel, moral dilemmas they face, and painted a vivid picture of lives. Not only do you see what the characters are seeing, not only do you feel for them, you soon become them. I found myself pulling my head from the book more than once simply to check if I was still in my bedroom.
In addition to the astounding depth Doctorow imbued his characters, he managed to bring to light in a near Dickensian fashion the plights of the opressed, ranging from factory workers in China to impovershed Indian slum dwellers.
In all, this book was a triumph. I'm marking it as a huge success.
Something important Doctorow also covered (in simple terms, I might add) is a good lesson in finance, which I really appreciated. He explained through good illustrations how certain investments operate, and demonstrates quite plainly economic principles I initially didn't entirely grasp until this book.
My only complaint is profanity. While it wasn't nearly as awful as the language of Little Brother, it still felt overused and as a result, lost impact when used (not that it was necessary in the first place).
To sum things up, I really enjoyed this book, and I appreciate it for realism and educational value.
On another note, I received my copy for free thanks to which is an excellent website I intend to review in the future.
Doctorow's official website
Mr. Doctorow did something else impressive: he published the book under a Creative Commons license, and it's free to download at the link above.

*Gold farmer: A person who plays an online game to resell in game currency and items for profit outside of the game; one who engages in gold farming. (via Wiktionary)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Free Audiobook copy of The Hunger Games!

From here:

This free audio copy of The Hunger Games is good until August 4th, so grab it while you can!
Spread the word!

Game Review: Dames Are Trouble

Hello there. Your name is Jim Novek, private investigator. You're a pretty upright fellow, but you've got your a little vice: you keep falling for them dames. And it's gotten you into trouble. This time you went head over heels for Vivienne; initially, everything was peaches and cream. That is, until the the dough ran out, at which point, so did she.
Dames Are Trouble is an interactive fiction game released in 2006 for Palm devices running OS 3.0 and up; it's reminiscent of older text-based adventures, and based in what seems to be a 1940's city (maybe Chicago). The entire game area is played in a single city block, and you about exploring, seeking information about the whereabouts of Vivienne, the titular dame, who, of course, has proved to be trouble, stealing your money, your car, and stuff that you generally value.
You've managed to find her apartment (the game starts there) but you can't enter until you know which apartment she's taken to living in. You thus decide to start doing what you do best: investigating.
I, the reviewer, do not want to give away too much information on the game (or how you solve it) but I must say it takes some patience, particularly if you're unfamiliar with interactive fiction titles. Unlike most IF (interactive fiction) titles, instead of a parser that you can type commands into, all possible actions (i.e. go west, climb fence) are right out there, simplifying things, although if you're used to IF like Zork, where everything is typed, it may seem a little dumbed down. On the other hand, it's a lot easier if you have a Palm like mine, a Tungsten T|5, which lacks a physical keyboard (though, if you can find an external secondhand in the year I write this review, 2010, congratulations).

I won the game in about 25 minutes. Graphically, it was pretty impressive considering it was intended for Palm OS 3 (and I'm currently running OS 5). The story, while not anything to dial home over, was still quite amusing, and a nice little reminder that this genre can go much, much further.

Download Dames are Trouble Here:

 and in case the first link is broken, here:

Dear readers, I understand that I have promised you a full on special on video games. I trust that you'll be pleased to know that said special is still underway, delayed on account of life, but by no means canceled.