This Is Not a Game

I just finished reading This Is Not a Game, the latest novel from Walter Jon Williams, and honestly I’m surprised the book hasn’t gotten more buzz among the circles in which I hang. For one, Walter is one of the original generation of cyberpunks. (His big breakout book was Hardwired, back in 1986. I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with him at the World Fantasy Convention in Madison, WI, a few years back, and I took the opportunity to let him know how much I’d enjoyed that book.)

For two, Walter’s a tabletop gamer. He wrote a Hardwired supplement for R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk roleplaying game, and he’s a part of the legendary RPG group that’s included George RR Martin and Roger Zelazny, among many other talented writers.

For three, he’s been involved alternate reality games (ARGs) too. He worked on Last Call Poker, the ARG designed to promote the Western video game Gun.

This Is Not a Game is a modern-day thriller about a woman who designs ARGs for a living. In it, reality and ARGs blur together in exciting and innovative ways. Walter’s not the first to tread this ground—Charles Stross did a great job of working ARGs and MMOs into his Halting State, for instance—but Walter knows a lot about the inner workings of such games, and he puts it all on display here. It makes for an intriguing read and hopefully introduces a lot more people to how powerful these sorts of games can be. If you’re interested in such things, be sure to pick it up.