Saturday, November 3, 2012

For the Win Review

Cory Doctorow writes YA novels that are unapologetically educational.

For adults.

The idea that a group of video game players could form a union and with it stop the world economy seemed at first ludcrious then embarrassingly naive. But the gaming economy becomes, at first, a metaphor to look at the way all economies work, and then he gleefully destroys the idea of there being a "real" economy: he takes you on an guided tour of the world gold standard as the basis for printed money, and how it applies to the creation of currency, but does so with bright eyed savage satirism that in effect says "dude if you think a game economy based on imaginary gold is dumb and weird look at what you use to buy food, bread,and make mortage payments every day without even thinking about where it all comes from." All economies, he says, are essentially based on abstract notions of value. Do we even, he writes, know how many gold bars there are in the world, or where they are at? The last time Fort Knox's gold was inventoried was IN THE 50's.

That said the book is equal parts heartbreaking and life affirming. The characters and their situations with their lives in the real world afflicted by capitalism run amok, is enough to make a harvard MBA join the picket lines. But as a novel it succeeds for some very unusual reasons.

In most YA novels most authors delay "getting the girl," "getting out of trouble," etc. Not Doctorow. His characters frequently, and this is a motif in many of his books, find helpful people, find people they can rely on and who work with them toward common goals. At first as a reader I felt this was mere wish fulfillment(give the characters conflict all the writing guides preach). Then I got the larger message that the idea of people being essentially antagonistic towards each other is a very media influenced American view of the world. He not only says this, but then proceeds to demonstrate it throughout the course of the book.

Not only have a learned a lot about capitalism, and learned about online gaming communties, but more importantly I've questioned this ironically naive belief we Americans seem to have in the negativity,and usury of others.

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