I don’t really think this book was “AMAZING”, but I gave it an extra star for doing a good job of messing with my expectations. I’ve been reading nearly 30 years now so it’s very hard for an author not to fall into the trap of various tropes that leads me to be able to guess the plots of most books before they get to their twist. (With the exception of noir or detective novels and some POV books like ASOIAF because the characters have an extra-limited perception of what’s going on)
This book, however, was quite timely for me to read now as I just heard the Fresh Air interview about the book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked in which he mentions how some MMOs like World of Warcraft use psychology to keep us coming back to the games almost against our wills. That’s not exactly the plot of this book, but it’s not too far off.
Speaking of that, I got this book as part of a bundle and most of the other books in the similar vein focus on either the players or the designers. This one focuses on both and actually does a good job of not drowning under too many characters. Everyone’s set up well and has a pretty good arc. Even the most one-dimensional character, CEO secretary Mrs Hernandez, ended up being one of my favorite characters because of how her portrayal made me think of secretaries differently. It was also neat to get glimpses of the side characters’ real lives because it gives an idea of the diversity of gamers and how their real lives affect their gameplay.
I also like how the book is layered – both the players of the MMO and the employees are playing games and in each case, those who understand the game mechanics best do the best in their respective games.
Finally, let me add that P. Aaron Potter (hopefully old enough not to have been teased about that surname) has done a pretty good job on the realism of everything and everyone. The parents are pretty realistic parents, not YA book parents. The gamers seem pretty realistic compared to gamers I know. The feds are portrayed pretty realistically as far as fiction goes. Shoot, the author even avoids all the stupid NSA tropes and more or less seems to understand what the agency does (and how it differs from the CIA and FBI).
Excellent all the way through and so far the best of this genre that I’ve come across.