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This is Not a Game

(Dagmar Shaw #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  2,541 ratings  ·  289 reviews
“Walter Jon Williams is a visionary of tremendous power and originality . . . He kills every damn time.”
--Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

When you play one of Dagmar’s online games, you can’t just shut down the computer and walk away. The games pursue you into real life: you start getting emails and phone calls from fictional characters, perfect strangers ask
Kindle Edition, 396 pages
Published October 15th 2017 (first published March 2009)
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Scott Cramer Just saw this question (finished the book today). This is a complete stand-alone book. I didn't realize that is was part of a series and I'm curious w…moreJust saw this question (finished the book today). This is a complete stand-alone book. I didn't realize that is was part of a series and I'm curious where it goes but no lingering items or cliffhangers from the first book(less)

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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Mike (the Paladin)
By page 60 I knew that my interest, which had waned earlier, wasn't coming back. I don't know maybe I'm too old or the wrong generation for this book. Told from points of view varying from "Dagmar" (our game designer protagonist) to the people "back at the office" and of course, the people on the internet the story wanders along seemingly searching for a conspiracy to be part of. With the danger and threats of the real world closing in around her and her survival in question Dagnar has reached o ...more
Peter Tillman
2019 reread. A slow start and the gamer stuff put me off, to the point that I considered putting it aside. But the novel really starts to cook when the action shifts back to LA, and the murders start....
Dagmar Shaw is an engaging anti-hero and the geeky computer stuff is appealing even if I didn't believe for more than a moment that gold-farming software could take over the world! WJW is a good enough writer to almost pull it off. Not one of his best novels, but the second half is very fast-mov
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gamers, gamines and anyone who's game for a fast-paced story
Recommended to Alan by: Charles Stross, inter alia
This Is Not An Average Novel

An intense near-future thriller that merges live-action role playing games with a realistic high-tech plot—this is one SF mystery that really works. Published almost simultaneously with Charles Stross' similar Halting State, it shares a number of general plot points—the intersection of online life, role-playing, with so-called "meatspace," in particular—but goes in a radically different direction.

This Is Not A One-Note Book

The novel is structured as a series of revela
Alain DeWitt
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
This is the first Walter Jon Williams book I've read. I picked it up at a passenger terminal in Afghanistan somewhere because I had finished the book I was reading and didn't have anything to read and this looked interesting. Rest assured it won't be the last.

A complex tale involving a specific type of video game called an alternate reality game (ARG). An ARG is a game that blurs the line between a fictional reality and our own 'real' reality. In an ARG, characters from the game will contact pla
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A comfortable reread - sort of a kinder gentler Daemon - though that's not something I knew the first time I read this. And definitely remembering the scene in a later book when Dagmar is given test questions with a lie detector and gives surprising answers, changes the feel of this book. And yet I still haven't searched out and played an Alternative Reality Game.

And another re-read. This time a bit too fast and remembering a bit too much. And now I have played an ARG - though Ingress is a far c
Not the best outing for Williams, sad to say. The four main characters are all involved in an alternative reality game (ARG) that has millions of players, who interact both on the web and in reality. Set in a near future (almost always a killer after the novel has been out for a decade or so), the lines begin to blur between the game and reality when people start getting murdered. This is really a thriller, so to give a synopsis of the plot would be to give away the novel. This book tries to be ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third WJ Williams book I have read - the others being Implied Spaces and The Fourth Wall. The story precedes the events of The Fourth Wall, and I probably would have understood that book better if I had read This is Not a Game first. There are 4 main characters in the book- all former college mates who participated in gaming, and whose paths later diverged. Three are successful and continue some association- Dagmar works as a fiction writer for games for one of Charlie's companies. A ...more
May 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in a near future, this is basically the story of an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that not only touches the fringe of reality but seeps into it, by design of the puppetmasters (game moderators). It didn't start out this way, but a collection of events and a couple of experiments push it over the edge until the game becomes literally an all out effort to save the world.

I loved reading this book. The writing was effortless and entertaining, as were the characters and the plots. I had so much fu
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I flew through this book. It had me hooked on page one and, thanks to a four hour flight, kept me engrossed to the end. I thought the plot was deftly woven, the use of an on-line role playing game in real-time/real-world was fascinating. I liked the murder-mystery elements of betrayal, revenge and double revenge. I liked the way world wide financial elements were manipulated on a more intimate level, shall we say. I can totally see the self replicating software happening at some point in the fut ...more
I love most of WJW novels and some like Aristoi, Metropolitan, City on Fire are among my top sff books, with Dread Empire and Implied Spaces close also, but sadly this one should be entitled "Not a Novel"

I fast plowed through it to see if it has anything of interest to me; it was just unreadable and boring - artificial, could not connect with the characters or the setting, seemed just a "game" so to speak, not "real"

A while ago I would have shrugged and said, well, near-future thrillers are not
Mike Shirar
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this one- especially interesting reading in 2017, when several of the near-future predictions about our online lives have come and, in the case of ARGs, seemingly gone already.

Fun mystery/thriller also featuring a great exploration of how technology impacts our lives, good and bad, and how to live ethically in an online world. To be clear, none of this is preachy, heavy-handed, or at all artificial.

Also enjoy the fact that all the pop culture reference are now 8 years out of date
Allan Gonzalez
Jan 04, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cyberpunk
What happens when on-line gaming and real life intertwine into a single narrative. The author merges together influences both of the game \ gamers affecting the real world and real world affecting the game. There are some interesting concepts with some nice nostalgic memories of when the games RPG etc started.
This is the first novel I’ve read by this author.

The first thing I liked about it is the orienting use of chapter titles, and it was fun that each chapter title was preceded by the phrase “This Is Not a....[insert word],” which echoes the phraseology of the book’s title “This Is Not a Game.” Clever. A lot of novels that meander on interminably without a specific reason to do so just irritate me as thematically wrong and as sloppy story telling/editing. I strongly like chapters and chapter title
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rwr
This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and one which I will continue to explore, as there are more books in the series. Exploring the experiences of Dagmar, a young woman employed by a video game company, it is more than a good read, but really encourages us to explore the role that social media plays in our lives, and how we are affected by it.

The first story in the book, as there are several, takes place at the very beginning, as Dagmar is trapped in Ind
When Dagmar lands in Jakarta, she finds her connecting flight has been canceled... along with every other flight out of the country. The currency is under attack and a revolution is underway. Luckily, Dagmar is the major producer/writer for Great Big Idea, a company that specialized in creating ARGs: alternate reality games. Her boss is a multimillionaire and he's determined to get Dagmar out of the country and back to safety, where she can start writing the next big game. When some of the more ...more
A decent semi-detective story that gets pretty good once it finally heads in for the main plot a third of the way through. The author uses the first third to convey the impact of what the story means to the people of the world who are not directly involved, but it made it hard to get into the book and could have been a LOT shorter. The book is a bit like Halting State in terms of being about mixing games and reality until it's hard to tell the difference, although maybe this is the flip side of ...more
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: avoid
unfortunate cover images... and catchphrase... but hey, i'll give a shot at a book following the folly of rich white ARG (alternate reality game- for the un-initiated) producers as the real world goes to shit around them.

and frankly it was the closest book to my backpack this morning that i hadn't already read. seriously considering making a book cover for this though, the cover is honestly embarrassing.

thoughts after finishing this book:
the author has some decent ideas and has some insight into
Ethan Bernauer
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
In my opinion, this was a very good book. The title lured me in a little bit. I thought that this would be a strange type of book since it was about a video game, but it actually wasn't that bad. I was very surprised by the ending because it took a sharp turn and changed what I thought was going to happen. Many parts of this book are suspenseful and keep you drawn in to where you don't want to put it down.

This book is about the main character, Dagmar, who, at the beginning of the book, is stuck
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fast, engaging read that, I thought, got internet culture mostly right (although I haven't played any Alternate Reality games, so I can't speak to that aspect). I had trouble putting it down. There was insufficient denouement, but on the other hand, it had more of a wrap-up than most Neal Stephenson books have. Unfortunately, a major plot point hinged on a completely ridiculous premise - that when you have a list of many thousands of items, and you have a program that acts on one of t ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All of the chapter and section titles in This Is Not a Game begin with the phrase "This Is Not a..." so I'll have to preface my observation with the comment that this is not a science fiction novel. It is a very good suspense/thriller with a little genre content, but... The book has a ten-year-old copyright, and it's closer now to reality than I imagine even the author could have imagined. It's a good murder mystery with more social-media-community influence than anything else I've read that com ...more
Mar 12, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
one star for a book that I started and did not finish. Nor did I get very far. Just not interested in the premise or feel of the writing, though I normally like WJW.

odd thoughts:

I am beginning to develop this theory that Charles Stross and Walter Jon Williams are working together behind the scenes.

The description of this book looks like a different take on the same or eerily familiar universe as Stross's Halting State.

Likewise, Implied Spaces grappled with the same ideas behind Stross's Glassho
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great new story from Walter Jon Williams involving four role-playing game players who meet in college. One goes on to be a successful entrepreneur, one becomes a venture capitalist, one a game designer, and one a bitter burnout. The story revolves around the games they create for a living and what happens when one of them is unexpectedly murdered.

The thing I liked about this story most is that it blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. The games produced in this book involve real-world ac
Apr 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I was involved in the XBOX 360 ARG the year before the release. I know some what of this gaming style. I find it fascinating and highly marketable.

Walter Jon Williams is know for his high-tech "cyberpunk" novels. This is not one of those novels. Which I found very nice. Call it a techno-thriller or whatever, but it was a good read.

The only complaint was the plot became a little transparent by the end of the story. Though it didn't detract from the read. I found I empathized with the characters
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
...If you enjoy a good (techno) thriller this book is as good as it gets. Events frequently outpace the main character keep her, and to an extend the reader, off balance. Williams captures the paranoia, desperations and frustration of the main character very well, without making her completely helpless. Dagmar is used to being in control of the game, when she eventually cuts the strings that move her the result in interesting, unexpected even. In short, I thought This Is Not a Game was a very en ...more
Dagmar is a “puppet-master”, a designer, author, and producer of wildly popular on-line games in which millions of participants solve the puzzles she devises. After he latest game has successfully conclude with a wedding in India she heads back home to California with a stopover in Jakarta. That quick layover turns into a weeks long nightmare as the collapse of the Indonesian currency has led directly to a bloody coup with Dagmar trapped in the capital city.

What starts out as a fairly straightf
Laz the Sailor
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Dagmar writes online games for social media websites. She's in Indonesia to promote her latest global game, and gets trapped by local insurrection. The really clever part is how she convinces her loyal Users to "play the game" and rescue her. The premise is cool, and the execution is very good. Dagmar's terror and intense creativity under pressure are quite visceral. I have read the sequel Deep State, and it has more character development, but is not as intense as this one. ...more
First off: This Is Not Science Fiction.

The basic idea, about using the participants in an ARG as mechanical Turks to solve real-life problems, was a clever one. But I'm dubious about computers or international finance working quite as Williams describes it, and the characters were flat. No one seemed to have any life--any hobbies, any friends, any past or future--outside of what the plot required.

I suppose Dagmar does have an implied future, since there are sequels, but I won't be reading them.
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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

Other books in the series

Dagmar Shaw (3 books)
  • Deep State (Dagmar Shaw #2)
  • The Fourth Wall (Dagmar Shaw #3)

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