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)

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