Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Real Life

Beautiful, touching, heartfelt.....Probably the best book I've read all year.

 IN REAL LIFE is based in the world of MMRPGs (Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games), but you don't have to be a gamer to fall in love with Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang's beautiful, immersive story and unforgettable characters.

 Anda is a a young girl whose family has just moved to Flagstaff, Arizona. When a female gamer comes to her school to recruit girls to play in her MMRPG guild (It's touted by her as a self-esteem builder), Anda enlists, and soon finds herself excelling in the world of "Coarsegold", even being enlisted in covert, cash-paying missions to eliminate "Gold Farmers", foreign players that spend hour upon hour toiling away in the game in order to build up experience and amass items that they can sell, for real-world cash, to gamers with money to burn who don't want to put in the time to get these items themselves.

 On one of the covert raids, Anda befriends a Gold Farmer, a young Chinese boy called Raymond, who works 12 hour shifts in a Gold Farming factory in China. As their secret in-game friendship deepens, Anda learns that Raymond suffers from back pain that is exacerbated by conditions at his workplace, and she is determined to help her new friend to force his employer to offer him healthcare.

 While a lot of the book is set in the virtual world of Coarsegold (Beautifully depicted by artist Jen Wang), both the real-world and online aspects of  IN REAL LIFE are handled perfectly by writer Cory Doctorow, who imbues each one of his characters with personality and heart, making them live and breathe even when we're only seeing their gamer avatars. This is one of those rare books that you hate to turn the final page on. Beautifully constructed and unforgettable, IN REAL LIFE is in the lead as a "Best of 2014" contender.

 First Second provided a review copy.

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