Book Review: For the Win

December 19, 2010

Cory Doctorow, Tor and craphound.com, 2010

The Spark December 2010 - January 2011
Byron Clark

‘For The Win’ is possibly one of 2010′s best works of fiction, at least for those readers who enjoy books that deal with big issues. Paraphrasing other writers in the genre, author Cory Doctorow has said that “good science fiction predicts the present” and part of what makes the novel so enjoyable is that this story could be taking place next year. While his last novel, Little Brother, explored issues around civil liberties and state power in the post-9/11 USA, For The Win shows that Doctorow’s unashamedly left-wing worldview extends to many other issues; globalisation, inequality, labour rights and the farcical nature of finance capitalism are all explored in the space of 375 pages.

The story revolves around “gold farming” the practice of amassing virtual wealth in an online multi-player video game, and then selling it for real-world currency. Typically, that virtual wealth is collected by people in the developing world, and sold to players in the developed world who want to avoid the work required to advance in the game. For the gold farmers, the income is comparable to what they could earn working in other available jobs. Of course, most of these gold farmers don’t own the computers and internet connections required to be a gold farmer (the means of production-albeit production of virtual commodities) and work for bosses who expropriate most of the wealth they create. Looking to remedy this situation is Big Sister Nor, a former garment factory worker in Malaysia who became a gold farmer after a strike caused the owners to move the factory to Indonesia. Nor has founded the “Industrial Workers of the World Wide Web” or “Webblies” (a homage to the Industrial Workers of the World (also known as Wobblies), the syndicalist union that had its heyday a century ago) and is organising gold farmers across borders in the virtual worlds they work in. Read the rest of this entry »


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