Review – ‘For the Win’ by Cory Doctorow

29 May

Wow, I finally finished it.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

As you can see from my reading summary at the bottom of my posts, I’ve been reading For the Win since back in March, just before I started blogging again. It’s been quite a ride.

For the Win is different from any other book I’ve ever read. It has a large cast of main characters, many of whom are people of different nationalities and races, and the story slowly draws them together to form a movement.

Right away, Doctorow introduces the concept of gold farmers, people (usually teenage boys in developing countries) who gather gold in MMORPG* videogames and sell it on to rich people who want to level up fast and have lots of in-game wealth.

Because there’s a market, there’s a supply, and so sweatshops form in India and China and other countries where bosses work the gold farmers into the ground for limited pay. There’s also people hired by the game companies to combat the gold farmers. In response, a character named Big Sister Nor and her friends start organising a union.

In theory, it’s a young adult novel, but I don’t think I could have stuck with it as a kid – there’s a lot of economics talk in there, which would have probably caused young adult me to zone out completely. However, as a somewhat-older-adult, I learned more about economics from this book than I have in the rest of my life.

The book focuses largely on the intersection between economics and labour rights, and Doctorow has taken a bold step in setting large amounts of the novel in Asia, with most of the book written from the Asian characters’ perspective. He paints vivid pictures of Dharavi, a poor area of Mumbai that is one of the largest slums in the world, as well as life in urban China. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of research that went into this story, written by a Canadian-British man.

Doctorow writes from the perspective of a Muslim girl, poor Chinese boys, a Jewish American boy who wishes he was Chinese, and all have their clear voices and all are believable and sympathetic. Oddly, the character I struggled most to relate to was the one main guy who was actually an American adult man. Though probably not that odd actually, since I’m a British woman.

I’m struggling to word this review in the same way I struggled at first to get into this book – it’s kind of too big for me. Read it. And Little Brother, too. Cory Doctorow has lots of worthwhile things to say.

*For those not in the know, an MMORPG is a massive multiplayer online roleplaying game such as World of Warcraft.

Currently reading

A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin

Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Catacombs by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Animorphs: The Stranger by K A Applegate

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Animorphs: The Invasion by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Visitor by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Message by K A Applegate
Animorphs: The Predator by K A Applegate
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
Animorphs: The Capture by K A Applegate

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