Tuesday, June 1, 2010

If Karl Marx wrote Ender's Game (review roundup)

Cory Doctorow was kind enough to send me a copy of his latest novel, For The Win. I've enjoyed all of his books, and this is no exception. If you're like me, and you prefer reading with as little knowledge as possible, then simply imagine if Karl Marx wrote a mashup of Ender's Game and Wall Street (with just a dash of Cryptonomicon and Spook Country).

But if you'd like to know a little more, For The Win is a tale of gold farmers in the near future, fighting for the right to unionize and earn a fair wage. Their battle takes place as much in the real world as in cyberspace (Cory imagines several MMOs, including Super Mario and Alice in Wonderland-themed worlds).

It seems like every mention of unions nowadays is accompanied by the conventional wisdom that unions are relics of a bygone age, full of the greedy autoworkers and teachers and state employees responsible for destroying the country's economy. For The Win is a bit of fresh air, reminding that unions actually serve a crucial purpose in securing a fair wage for the weak, and that a much harder look should be given at the CEOs riding around in corporate jets while their businesses burned.

Of course, For The Win is also a fast-paced near-future science fiction tale taking place in exotic lands. Cory's praised William Gibson for pointing out that the best science fiction is really about the present,* and Gibson's influence is strongly seen here. You can download a copy of For The Win for free, and the hardcover's only $12 at Amazon.

Here's a few more reviews:

1. Wolverine Origins Volume 5 Deadpool: The first five issues are fun - - like an episode of Itchy and Scratchy starring Wolverine and Deapool, drawn by Steve Dillon. But the last two issues were drawn by Steven Segovia and tell the origin tale of Wolverine's son Daaken. I didn't much care for the art, and had zero interest in finding out what happens in volume 6. $13 at Amazon.

2. Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings: I actually bought this to teach my son a lesson about licensed properties, and how video games based on movie characters are almost always terrible. Based on reviews, I was expecting a disaster, and in many ways, that's what the game is - - gamefreezing bugs that required me to turn off the system, lackluster graphics, frustrating camera, unresponsive controls, and lots of instant deaths. However, once I accepted the game for what it was, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Although the ad campaign for the game trumpeted its "Havok engine" and indicated it would be a great platformer, the game's really nothing of the sort. It's a modern day version of Dragon's Lair, starring Indiana Jones. For $20, I recommend you buy it at Amazon.

3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I read this for my book club. Here's some fan art. You should not buy the book.

4. The Scar: China Mieville is the only author to win the UK's most prestigious science fiction prize three times, yet he hardly gets any blog love, and I think I've seen fan art once. It's a terrible shame. His books are thrilling and challenging and full of imaginative characters and locales. I recently reread The Scar and loved every moment of it. Buy it for $8 at Amazon.

*I mean, just this week, stories on my Google Reader feed included Amateur Astronomers Spot Super Secret X-37B Space Shuttle Replacement, Russians encouraging the US to use a nuclear bomb to stop the oil leak in the gulf, how to use a laser pointer to make an egg glow in the dark, UK School Wants To Fingerprint Kids Who Take Out Library Books, scientist created artificial life, Japan wants to build a robotic moon base.