This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams
Published by Orbit on 5 March 2009 UK and 24 March 2009 US
What if you landed in an airport only to find that your connecting flight was cancelled? And even worse than that there was a military coupe in progress? What would you do when you found out that the US forces weren’t able to get you out? Who would you turn to?
These are the questions that Dagmar faces in the opening to This Is Not A Game when she lands in Jakarta and unable to leave a country she had no intention of staying in.
Dagmar is lucky enough to have a boss who is in a position to help get her out of Jakarta but it isn’t as easy as it first appears. So she turns to the people she knows online in her role as puppetmaster – the person pulling the strings behind Great Big Ideas’ Alternative Reality Game – is the collective mind is able to overcome her difficulties?
This isn’t really the story though these events happen.
The story is what happens when you mix the real world and online role play. Where does fantasy role play stop and reality begin? Reality and fantasy mix further when Dagmar uses her experiences in Jakarta as the bases for her next ARG.
“To the player, the Alternate Reality Game has no boundaries. You can be standing in a parking lot, or a shopping center. A pay phone near you will ring, and on the other end will be someone demanding information. You’d better have the information handy.”
What happens when a real life murder unintentionally becomes part of the game? Is that sick? Or should you change the game to set the community after clues and after the real murderer?
This is Not a Game is a wonderful exploration of current merging of online and offline worlds. It’s a thriller/crime tale that made this reader slightly paranoid. The events don’t need that much of a stretch the imagination.
Williams manages to keep the story moving, twist and turning as Dagmar finds out more about who killed her friend and why. The answer is seems is a little more closer to home than would first appear.
I don’t really have any criticism. I love the small touches like the chapter titles, the way that email and forum entries are seamlessly inserted into the narrative and how scarily Williams blurs the lines so easily.