7 Rated Books Book Reviews Giveaways YA Appreciation Month 2010

Book Review & Giveaway: For The Win by Cory Doctorow

Title: For The Win

Author: Cory Doctorow

Genre: Thriller, Young Adult, Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: May 2010
Hardcover: 480 pages

In the virtual future, you must organize to survive

At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual “gold,” jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world’s poorest countries, where countless “gold farmers,” bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay.

Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of “General Robotwalla.” In Shenzen, heart of China’s industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo.

The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power—including blackmail, extortion, infiltration, violence, and even murder. To survive, Big Sister’s people must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once—a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant hack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all.

Imbued with the same lively, subversive spirit and thrilling storytelling that made LITTLE BROTHER an international sensation, FOR THE WIN is a prophetic and inspiring call-to-arms for a new generation.

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher

Why did I read this book: I have a love-hate thing with Cory Doctorow. On the one hand, I think he’s brilliant – I love his politics, his biting wit, his stance on DRM (die! DIE!), and I think he’s an altogether incredibly smart (if a little out there) dude. That said…when Cory Doctorow writes fiction, his characters all sound just like…Cory Doctorow. Little Brother was fascinating and highly educational (and what can I say, I agree with Doctorow’s political stance, so I ate the book up) – but from a purely objective, reviewer’s standpoint, I can’t exactly say that he writes Great Fiction. When I heard about For The Win, I was immediately intrigued though. As an Economics grad that enjoys video games and grew up in southeast Asia, this book basically has my name all over it. Of COURSE I eagerly scooped it up.


For the Win is a smart, action-packed novel following some very smart internationally dispersed gamers as they navigate the complicated and lucrative virtual MMORPG world, as well as the economic repercussions these games have in IRL. There’s Wei Dong (real name, Leonard), an American fascinated with China, and a gamer that has worked his way into a Chinese raiding guild. There’s Mala – aka General Robotwala to her army of followers – Indian village girl, but with an uncanny knack for attack strategy, and unbeaten…until she comes across a Singapore gamer that calls herself Big Sister Nor. Nor tries to recruit others like Mala to stand together against The Man (in this case, the corporate entities that own the games) – to unionize and to outsmart the limitations of the system and the ruthless corporations that will stop at nothing to shut these rogue gamers down.

There’s no denying that there is something eminently readable about Cory Doctorow’s writing (fiction or otherwise), and For The Win is no exception. Just as with Little Brother, FTW is an incredibly informative, action-packed romp starring some shockingly intelligent individuals. Yeah, it’s a bit bloated, the characters simplistic in their renderings (cool brave gamers versus the old evil corporate minions), but so far as entertainment value goes? FTW delivers. If Little Brother reminded me of a supercharged and politically revelant version of Hackers, FTW is (as one apt amazon reviewer put it) the literary equivalent of a Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer movie – a whole lot smarter, naturally. FTW has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer (much like the afformentioned Bay and Bruckheimer) – but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a fun book to read.

And, as with any Doctorow work, it’s also a goldmine of information. And on that note I feel obligated to say – Cory Doctorow is the KING of info-dumps. It’s gotten to the point where he doesn’t even attempt to disguise them – periodically throughout the book, Corey Doctorow speaks directly to the readers to explain different things (gamer arbitrage, for example). That’s not a bad thing – I think these points are really interesting, and he does a great job explaining the applications of economic principles without being dry or boringly erudite. But is this the stuff of great writing? Not exactly. And, it’s also an incredibly polarizing style of writing – because should a reader not subscribe to this author’s particular flavor of kool-aid, it’s game over. (lame pun not intended) (seriously, I apologize for all the lame puns of late)

Bottom line: FTW is fun. It’s smart and rousing and wonderfully informative. I liked it a lot…but it’s probably not gonna work for everyone. You decide.

Rating: 7 – Very Good

Additional Thoughts and Giveaway Details:

So, anyone familiar with Cory Doctorow beating away at the down with DRM drum knows that he is an advocate for digital FREEDOM. And, in that spirit, EVERYONE is a giveaway winner – because EVERYONE can download For The Win, gratis. Completely free (and I’m not just talking some crappy PDF copy – we’re talking open source, remix it however the hell you want to in whatever format you want to awesomesauce).

BUT for those a little more old-school (or those without e-readers), we’re also having a giveaway of ONE print edition of the book. To enter, simply leave a comment here letting us know what your online game of choice is. The contest is open to EVERYBODY, ANYWHERE, and will run until Saturday 31 July at 11:59pm (PST). Good luck!

Reading Next: Early to Death, Early to Rise by Kim Harrison


  • Carol Thompson
    July 23, 2010 at 1:58 am

    I don’t have an e-reader and presumbly everyone means it is open Internationally ?

    I would love to get the print book.

    MY favorite game at the moment is Mafia Wars on Facebook.


    Carol T

  • stephen adams
    July 23, 2010 at 2:19 am

    i like bejeweled blitz
    hope i win the print copy

  • Nadia Lee
    July 23, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Since I’m old fashioned, I’d love a chance to win the print copy. Thanks! 🙂

    P.S. As for my online game of choice…it used to be that I played a lot of Starcraft on Battlenet, but these days, I don’t play anything.

  • Kimberly B.
    July 23, 2010 at 2:51 am

    I’d love to win this book, and I’m so old school I hardly even play any online games. But I’ve recently started to play one I like–Echo Bazaar!
    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  • Anne Royce
    July 23, 2010 at 3:46 am

    I’d love to win the book, too! :3

    My favorite online game is Audition! Haven’t played it in a while, though cuz e-games won’t let me play it 🙁

  • Carolina Felipe
    July 23, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Great contest! Thanks! I don’t have time to play anymore, but I used to play Counter Strike!!

  • Amanda Isabel
    July 23, 2010 at 4:55 am

    Team Fortress Two is my game of choice, and I think the fee digital thing is an interesting concept -that’s how I first read Scott Wellington books.

  • kemendraugh
    July 23, 2010 at 5:08 am

    Kingdom of Loathing dot com. It’s sarcastic and clever. All I ever asked from my games! 🙂

  • Jennifer
    July 23, 2010 at 5:14 am

    Well I am not exactly “old fashioned” but I happen to just love the feeling of holding a book in my hands and seeing the words on paper….I haven’t played computer games that much ever since I got my iTouch….which I love to play Doodle Jump on….
    Bu I guess I might play the occasional game of Castle Defense on the computer….

  • Megan
    July 23, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Woohoo, print copy! I’m a WoW player, though that’s less of a game and more of a lifestyle, lol.

  • Marco
    July 23, 2010 at 6:27 am

    Mine is dino rpg a lot of fun with dinosaurs

  • rhapsodyinbooks
    July 23, 2010 at 6:35 am

    I don’t play online games and I don’t even read e books! But I really like Cory Doctorow so I would like to win this!

    nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

  • Amelia P.
    July 23, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Back in the day I used to be heavily addicted to EverQuest, eventually I went cold turkey and quit it. Ever since those dark days I’ve kept pretty clear of online games, though I have dabbled in a few others since then, including WoW. Nothing has ever come close to matching its immersive and addictive qualities since; it was nicknamed EverCrack for a reason, lol :p

    Its great that Doctorow offers a free download of the book, but man would a hard copy be awesome!

  • Mia
    July 23, 2010 at 8:34 am

    I don’t really play a whole lot of online games ATM. However, in honor of my brother’s obsession and the fact that he spent 2 hours last night telling me all about it, I’m going to go with DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online).

    I’m most certainly going to download this to my phone, but I always like to get a hard copy of Cory Doctorow’s books. I like to be a part of proving best selling authors can offer free e-books and still be best selling authors.

  • April-Lyn
    July 23, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Favorite online game used to be WoW, but then I gave that addiction up. Not playing many online games these days (only internet at home is only my iPhone at the moment), but I guess Words with Friends counts!

    I want a free Doctorow book! 🙂

  • YAAM! « Fledgling
    July 23, 2010 at 10:11 am

    […] doing a joint review of Wish!  Today there’s a review and giveaway of Cory Doctorow’s For the Win…check it […]

  • Erika (Jawas Read, Too)
    July 23, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I am crazy addicted to Words With Friends on the iPod Touch. Crazy addicted. I even play random opponents when my friends tire of me. 😉

    I really, really enjoyed Little Brother and am looking forward to one day reading this one! 🙂

  • Teresa W.
    July 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I like to play Cafe World on Facebook!

  • debp
    July 23, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    I like bejeweled. I would like the regular book version.

  • Caitlin George
    July 23, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks so much for the giveaway! This looks really good!

    I’m saying Tetris will always be my favorite online game 🙂


  • Lexi
    July 23, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I have the attention span of a goldfish and thus, do not stick with one game for long.

    I do like real books though (:

  • danielle
    July 23, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Haha, Cory was just quoted on Criminal Minds.

    Enter me, if you please.

  • Tran
    July 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    it may sound girlish but i really love the online Armour game Sushi Cat!!

  • Adelina
    July 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    I prefer to hold a book in my hands so I would love to win the book. For The Win sounds like it would be a great read! I hardly play online games–I’m more of a Xbox girl–but sounds like fun. I think I’ll start. 😉

  • Misha Mathew
    July 23, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    I’d love to win the book.
    My favorite online game is maha jong tiles.


  • Stephanie K.
    July 23, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I like to play zuma. Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Mrs. DeRaps
    July 23, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I love tetris and word games. I don’t have a lot of time to play, but sometimes do when I have a *touch* of writer’s block.

    I love Cory Doctorow!!

    hderaps @ mbrsd . org

  • enyl
    July 23, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    The only on-line game that I’m familiar with is tetris. I believe that For The Win will be a big hit with the boys in my classroom.

  • Eva SB
    July 23, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    I try to steer away from online gaming because I know I’ll ike it too much. Play the occassional games of Bubbles when I have a few minutes to waste.

    I have read Cory Doctorow’s ebooks and listened to quite a few of his audioboooks now I would love to try out the dead tree version.


  • Llehn
    July 23, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    I love the Brick Game. Very addictive.

  • Allison
    July 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    I like Cake Mania! Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Serena
    July 24, 2010 at 8:33 am

    I used to be addicted to playing Club Penguin… Thanks so much for the giveaway international! Tons of thanks!

  • Bethie
    July 24, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I like my “real books”. Please count me in. Thanks for the chance. My fv online game is Cash Cow from the Webkinz site. My son and I play all the time.

  • Maggie
    July 24, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I feel lame saying bejeweled, but someone else already said it so I feel less lame. Yay for silly games!

  • Edi
    July 25, 2010 at 8:05 am

    I don’t play online games, but I do routinely play Unblock Me, Whirly Word and Words with Friends on my iPhone. And, I’d to write this book the old school way.

  • Nicole
    July 25, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Last summer, I was obssessed with online games especially Escape games. You know, the games where you are locked in a room and to get out you have to find the key or something like that. Anyways, I still play them but they don’t show any that are challenging anymore.

    I love having the actual book in my hand to read it word for word and turning the pages so, I would love to be entered to win this book. Plus, I have been here great reviews of this book and that just really excites me 😀 !

  • Ellaanabeth
    July 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I DO like to kick it oldschool! I’m still happily playing Diablo and Diablo II despite the fact the the first is over a decade old and the second is getting there. 😛

  • Book Review: Doomed by Tracy Deebs | The Book Smugglers
    January 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

    […] and an action-packed pseudo-cyber-thriller – it’s kind of like World of Warcraft meets Cory Doctorow’s For the Win meets TV show Revolution. That’s a pretty potent concoction, if pulled off correctly. […]

  • Ricky Waller
    July 16, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Just finished Context and read his regular posts in BoingBoing. My favorite online game is Scrabble of course….

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