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The Fourth Wall (Dagmar #3)

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  389 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Dagmar Shaw got out of the game... and into the movies.

Sean is a washed-up child actor reduced to the lowest dregs of reality television to keep himself afloat. His life was a downward spiral of alcoholism, regret, and failure... until he met Dagmar.

Except Sean has secrets, dark even for the Hollywood treadmill of abuse, addiction, and rehab. And Dagmar is a cipher. There
Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 13th 2012 by Orbit (first published January 1st 2012)
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Apr 13, 2012 Alan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Stross' Halting State, unless they're named Corey
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work; Powell's City of Books
The "fourth wall" is a theatrical convention, the invisible barrier that, for most actors in most productions, keeps the audience separate from (and invisible to) the players. To "break the fourth wall," to step outside character and address an audience directly, is another theatrical convention, one at least as old as the wall itself. Everyone in this media-literate time probably already knows that much. But you may not know that The Fourth Wall is Walter Jon Williams' third entry in the growin ...more
Sep 04, 2015 Tasula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had read and enjoyed one other WJ Williams book (Implied Spaces), so I tried another, and enjoyed this one too. The narrator is a strange looking, washed up, grown up famous child actor, fallen on hard times, when suddenly he is offered a lead in a movie to be shown as a serial through internet subscriptions. He can't believe his luck and accepts the role- winds up working with a director, other actors, etc. he used to know- but he has some close calls with a black SUV, and some of his friends ...more
Mike Ratner
Feb 13, 2012 Mike Ratner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This why WJW is not a more widely popular writer. He is just so uneven. This third book in the series reverts to the detective story format of the first, but now projected on the luridly and scornfully depicted world of Hollywood. The book's "Big Idea" is underwhelming, and when it undergoes a revision during the ending, the new explanation just seems weird and contrived. And the detective story threads resolve themselves in extremely unsatisfactory fashion, so that one is left wondering, what a ...more
Rebecca Stevenson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 01, 2012 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I really enjoyed reading this. The interconnected story of the former child star, his almost Lebowski-ish inability to comprehend what's going on, the futuristic gameing/movie world, religious cults, and the shadowy realm of international terrorism (or something else?)... it was fun.

I had no idea that one of the characters was a reoccuring lead for W J Williams until I went to log this book into Goodreads. Notable also is that the folks who did know that, didn't seem to like this book as much a
Feb 12, 2012 Hildo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Walter Jon Williams goes from strength to strength. This third Dagmar book is written from the viewpoint of a largely failed actor who's given the chance to star in a Dagmar-produced movie/game/what else... tie-in. Combine this with murders, espionage and crazy parents and it's funny, thrilling and a fulfilling read. It makes m want to re-read the earlier books.
Jul 03, 2012 Alexandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
This is the third book in Williams' series about Dagmar Shaw (the others are This is Not a Game and Deep State). I guess therefore this review may contain spoilers for those two books, like the fact that she survives.

This one is not like the others because Dagmar is not the main protagonist. Instead, she moves onto the sidelines, becoming a somewhat shadowy, sometimes even fearsome, mover and shaker. I was a bit surprised by this change because Dagmar had worked so very well in the others; she's
Michael K Martin
Some really good books take me three weeks, and some take me a week. This is not a measure of literary worth or my enjoyment with the book, it just means that it reads into my brain that much easier. Walter Jon Williams is from New Mexico. I grew up in Flagstaff. His syntax pours into my brain like an IV of lactated ringers into a thirsty soul.

The fourth wall is a Dagmar novel, and I love this tangent. Walter Jon Williams is a versatile writer, a writer who can take on a genre or subgenre with a
Carrie Slager
Feb 14, 2014 Carrie Slager rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-bought
I was introduced to The Fourth Wall by reading Walter Jon Williams’ Big Idea essay over at Whatever. Intrigued by the idea behind the novel, I bought it on pure speculation, as I seem to do quite a bit when I read The Big Idea articles. After all, it’s how I found out about Feed, to name one of the best examples. And much like Feed, The Fourth Wall has a killer opening, which is not entirely appropriate for all readers.

“When you spot someone sitting at the beach wearing a headset for Augmented R
Lauren Smith
Sean Makin is a washed-up actor. As a child he was a household name; now he’s getting beat up and humiliated on the crappy reality TV show, Celebrity Pitfighter. His big break comes when he gets an interview with Dagmar Shaw, who made a fortune in the gaming industry making “Alternate Reality Games”. Dagmar has now turned her attention to film. She’s got a big budget to make a revolutionary new kind of movie, and she wants Sean as its star.

It’s exactly what Sean was dreaming of, even though the
May 10, 2012 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Fourth Wall is another thriller that may be billed as science fiction, but barely right to be in that category (there's some "couple years away" technology on show here, and a sort of underwhelming "big idea" at the end). That's okay though, this is a pretty good read, mostly because the main character is not a stellar human being - but you want to follow his story anyway. The story is centered around a series of murders in the entertainment industry, told from the point of view of a former ...more
Guy Haley
Running on an engine of great characterisation and wit, The Fourth Wall mercilessly skewers Hollywood’s star machine.

Sean Makin is a washed up child star with cheating parents, a dirty secret, and a desperate need to be adored. Among his problems is a physical condition that makes him appear somewhat freakish. Condemned to the lowest rung of the star ladder – appearing in reality TV show Celebrity Pit Fighter – when he’s offered the part of extra-dimensional alien Roheen in an international, ser
Stuart Reid
Mar 02, 2014 Stuart Reid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, crime, favorites
In my eyes this is the best of the Dagmar Shaw series (so far?) even though here we really follow Sean Makin in first person and Dagmar is relegated to a bit player, albeit an important one.

Sean is a washed up ex-child star, appearing in Celebrity Pit Fighter to get exposure and struggling with the fact that he's done some pretty horrible things in his past in order get recognition. He's been a struggling actor for a long time - not helped by the fact he is skint , his nest egg from his successf
Not quite sci-fi, not quite techno-thriller, this story builds on the background of the two previous Dagmar stories, and it is fun to make contact again with Dagmar's team. They make the cyber stuff and tech stuff easier, and lets WJW concentrate on this tangential story, a funny and often sad look at the seamy side of the Hollywood entertainment industry and the child actors whose lives fuel this bonfire, often to their great regret. Sean, the protagonist, is the archetype of a child actor, gre ...more
Walter Jon Williams' third Dagmar Shaw novel, The Fourth Wall, started slow but turned into a fun read. The first introduced us to the top ARG designer, the second had her involved in an Arab Spring style revolution (right before the real one), and this one has her producing an interactive movie*. This is told from the movie lead's viewpoint and includes intrigue and murder of course. I found the narrative took a bit getting used to but after the first few chapters it wasn't a problem. There is ...more
Mar 07, 2012 SF_Fangirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, sci-fi
Another enjoyable page turner. I had real trouble putting this one down as witnessed by the fact I blew through nearly 400 pages in 3 days.

*** Update: A year later, I remember nothing about this book except the background of the main character. I just read the first Dagmar book This Is Not a Game and I found I couldn't remember a darn thing about the plot of this novel or what Dagmar was doing in it. It might be a good thing because in Wikipedia-ing the plot, I discover that Sean's story is very
John Constable
Mar 26, 2014 John Constable rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The next in the Dagmar series, I've been wanting to get round to this for ages, but been unwilling to drop other things to do so.

Really, really enjoyed it - the main protagonist is so self centered, and so well drawn that you have to both root for him and despise him a bit at the same time.

As with the latter two books in the series, I'm not entirely sure of the feasibility of the plot, but that didn't interfere with my enjoyment - no lack of verisimilitude breaking the fourth wall, indeed!

Also g
Feb 13, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
I was really excited to plunge back into the world of Dagmar. My dream job would be running ARG's. I have run a few for local businesses but nothing like what this series has done. I like the story telling, the discovery and gameplay.

That being said, the Fourth Wall is not a Dagmar centric novel. This threw me off for a few chapters. It took a shift in reading to come to realize it was a different story. Over all it is a great stand alone story. All the elements of William's last few.

I started
Well, at least it read fast.

This is the third book in the Dagmar Shaw series. I enjoyed the first one quite a bit, the second one somewhat less, and this one...meh. The narrator (who is not Dagmar) is a thoroughly unlikeable person (the phrase that kept coming to mind was "raging dickhole"), and the story seemed kind of weak. The ending felt like an afterthought, like Williams ran out of steam. Dagmar herself only appears occasionally, though she and her crew were central to the plot. I also wa
I really wish I had half stars... Heck the full 0.00 to 5.00 would be better. This book is more like a 4.0 but I enjoyed it much more than that so call it a 4.5. This is a book 3 - it follows up Deep State (which I wish had been called This is not a revolution), which followed up This Is Not A Game - which I liked best of the three. I guess this one should have been, This is not a movie. Same universe but we are following a washed-up has-been child star with a funny looking head who ends up star ...more
Jun 24, 2012 JW rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Is it too vague to say Williams has done it again?

It's hard to review The Fourth Wall without talking about the other Dagmar Shaw books. So if you haven't read This Is Not A Game and Deep State, go do that. Trust me.

So, if you're read those (no, really, shoo if you haven't! Go!) this is another standout showing. Again, everything that is set up pays off, the attention to detail in the little things that make up a lot of our lives is there and the voices ring true. This last one is particularly i
Sep 22, 2015 Cissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this novel in a lot of ways.

The POV character, Sean, rather weird but personable and believable. The secondary characters, too. And the plot is pretty tight yet convoluted, and ends up mostly making sense.

(Mild spoiler here, though it's in the first 100 pages) One of the foci of the plot rests on Sean's guilt for "killing" a friend. And yeah, the friend died. However, I think if 2 people drunker than lords decide to drive vehicles, and while trying to avoid a collision one of them dies-
Apr 18, 2012 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Not as good as the first two, but good.

Couldn't put it down, as usual. WJW has a real gift for that.

This is the first book in the 'Dagmar' series not to actually feature Dagmar as a protagonist. Here she is a mysterious figure whose motivations are mostly unknown to our actual protagonist, a washed-up former child actor named Sean Makin who finds himself with fresh employment when Dagmar decides to get into the movie business.

Of course, since it's Dagmar, the Augmented Reality Game entrep
Jul 15, 2014 Lushr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Totally different to the first two, in that Dagmar is not the main character, why? Because she has a secret, and we can't find out what it is until the end. Instead we follow a Hollywood actor named Sean who carries the book well through many twists and death threats and the usual intrigue! It's a good read, cool story, I missed Dagmar but enjoyed Sean. Not so much of the techno cyber stuff in this one it's very much an insight to Hollywood movie world though. I hope there are more of the Dagmar ...more
Michael Rutherford
I really enjoyed the first two books in this series.

I was disappointed in this book, Dagmar as a secondary character, just didn't work for me.

I don't know if there is going to be another book in this series, if so I will have to think long and hard before I purchase it, if it is like this book.

Don't get me wrong, Sean grew on me, and grew during the course of the book. But he isn't the character that I enjoyed getting to know.

I enjoyed learning about the movie industry, but that wasn't enoug
Apr 13, 2012 Karina rated it it was ok
This was tagged as sci-fi in my library. It is not. Maybe that is why it took me so long to read it: I was expecting something different from what it turned out to be... The title too is not good; I still have no idea why it's called The Fourth Wall after reading the book. Mostly this story is narrated by an actor, with only a few comments from the audience on his blog... I guess from the title I expected there would be a lot more intermingling between movie and the audience. It was mildly enter ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting change-up from previous Dagmar novels This Is Not a Game and Deep State: this time the first person narrator is a former child actor down on his luck, and we get to see Dagmar from an outside perspective. The Turkish Soup scene sold me, and the ARG players dealing with forum trolls was delightful. A very enjoyable read.
Dan Polley
Jun 24, 2012 Dan Polley rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
After I finished reading the book, I realized it was part of a series. No matter. I thought this book stood out well on its own (probably because the first two books are told through the eyes of a different character.

This book focuses on a has-been child actor who seeks fame in any form. After he becomes attached to a new global entertainment project, his life, and the lives of those around him, simultaneously inflate and implode.

I liked Williams' prose and found the characters to be largely lik
Harald Koch
Oct 17, 2011 Harald Koch rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laz the Sailor
Apr 28, 2012 Laz the Sailor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
First off, this story is not in the same mold as the first two. This one is mostly a humorous tweak at movie-making, combined with a murder mystery, with Dagmar lurking in the shadows to provide relevance to the references to data-mining and drones. This story is closer to a Thomas Perry (Strip, Butcher's Boy, etc) novel.

That said, this is another fine tale by WJW, with twists and quirks and surprises. Plenty of amusing comments combined with deadly serious actions and consequences. Just no heli
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Walter Jon Williams has published twenty novels and short fiction collections. Most are science fiction or fantasy -Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind, Aristoi, Metropolitan, City on Fire to name just a few - a few are historical adventures, and the most recent, The Rift, is a disaster novel in which "I just basically pound a part of the planet down to bedrock." And that's just the opening chapters ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Dagmar (3 books)
  • This is Not a Game
  • Deep State (Dagmar, #2)

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“To be honest, I don’t think so. I think what’s made me better is success and money. Lack of success made me desperate and crazy. All the bad things I’ve done in my life came out of that desperation.” 0 likes
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