Tag Archive | gaming

Unison Spark, by Andy Marino (book review) – social network or mind control?

book cover of Unison Spark by Andy Marino published by Henry HoltA perfect world made just for you,
optimized to provide everything that you want,
more realistic than real life.
What could go wrong with that?

Future Friday takes us to sprawling Eastern Seaboard City, where the Haves can access the ultimate social network – Unison – and the Have-Nots are relegated to the below-street slums, with its rampant crime among the scabbed-together shacks and cast-off technology bits.

Mistletoe can engineer and coax her hunk-of-junk scooter into maneuvers just beyond the maximum recommended for that old model – good thing, as gun-wielding topsider goons pursue her and lost Ambrose through Little Saigon’s alleys and hidden passageways. Why would any sensible topsider come down here?

All good things do have their price
, and some revolutionaries think that the price of Unison will far exceed its subscription costs. Can the teens trust the revolutionaries or UniCorp or anyone?

How far is UniCorp willing to go in its search for maximum profits? Can they truly predict every individual Unison user’s ultimate needs through process-flow? When does the will of an individual become merely a consumable piece in a worldwide business plan?

This page-turning potential future is available now at libraries and bookstores – grab it!
**kmm

Book info: Unison Spark / Andy Marino. Henry Holt, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: When Mistletoe saves a young topsider from uniformed non-police thugs, she wonders why this wealthy teen is in the grotty lower city. She certainly can’t go up into his world of real sunshine and Unison – the social network that knows you better than you know yourself.

Ah, Unison! Just shimmer in (for an appropriate fee) and enjoy limitless data flow, countless friends, your own custom-structured world for work and play. Everything is clearer, brighter, happier in Unison – as long as you keep paying your subscription. And UniCorp provides all the little things in the real world that make it less painful to be part of the “fleshbound parade” of humans during those so-long moments of being out of Unison.

No one can predict process-flow as well as teenaged Ambrose, who is chair of UniCorp’s profits division well ahead of his older brother Len. Ambrose will today move into Unison permanently, when surgery to his hypothalamus will eliminate his body’s need for sleep and give him 24 hours a day in Unison to maximize profits for their father’s corporation.

A rogue data-transfer message as he enters the UniCorp building tells Ambrose to go down into Little Saigon now, before the surgery, or his brain and dreams will be siphoned away by… who? Len? Their father? Revolutionaries? Contrary to best process-flow data, Ambrose flees for the subcanopy’s depths.

As Mistletoe and Ambrose escape through Little Saigon’s grimy alleys and tunnels on a puttering old roboscooter, they discover that both received the same rogue message “Carpe somnium” and wonder why they’ve been told to “seize the dream.”

Bombs in a world where explosives are illegal, closed off from the data of Unison and allies in the subcanopy, the teens must stay alive and free as they try to discover who’s trying to keep Ambrose out of Unison and why the data message brought them together.

Clever and suspenseful, Unison Spark is an adventure story of the future which threads questions of self and community through its action-filled pages. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

For the Win (fiction)

Quick! Which of these is fictional (not real):
a) Online game playing as prison punishment?
b) online gamers forming a trade union?
c) Gold farming?

If you said (b), then you win! Cory Doctorow’s newest book delves into the world of gold farming, where some teens play online games to make a tiny bit of money to survive, not for fun. When they try to form a union so they can keep part of the “gold” that they win online instead of turning it all over to their bosses, both big business and their governments get angrily and mightily involved to protect their economic interests.

Make no mistake – in places where labor is cheaper than technology, real people are being forced into gold farming yet earning hardly anything, right this minute (like the Chinese prisoners noted above). And now scripted ‘bots can be set loose to play a low-level character on auto-pilot, earning a little gold, then repeating – lots of bots can equal a fair amount of pocket change, along with the risk of being discovered and banned from the game.

If you want to read the WHOLE book online, go here with Cory’s blessing. Yes, the author wants you to read his book online for FREE. That’s because Cory knows you’ll want to buy a copy so you can reread it, share it, and even remix it – yep, Creative Commons License. The guy is a genius! (seriously! I’ve read all his short stories and books online, then gone on to get the print books)

On World Wednesday, this fast-moving story takes you to China, India, Singapore, and the United States – who will really win?
**kmm

Book info: For the Win / Cory Doctorow. Tor Teen, 2010. [author’s website] [author interview] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Playing games online all day, every day sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But for young people packed into smoky internet cafes in Singapore, Shenzen, and Mumbai, it’s a matter of survival.

People have discovered how to turn online “gold coins” and “magic gems” into real money, so the biggest online game worlds have larger economies than many nations, and youngsters in less-developed countries are recruited as “gold farmers,” playing online in teams and turning over their winnings to the bosses who hold their return-home tickets.

But what if the gold farmers organized, banded together for better working conditions? How does a kid from LA wind up in China to help the gold farmers unionize? And what happens when the big businesses who own the big online worlds strike back?

Meet young teens in China, India, and Malaysia who work as gold farmers to feed their families, who face violence from police and rival bosses when they’d rather go to school, who risk their lives to make a difference. This page-turner looks big, but reads fast, a techno-thriller that could happen tomorrow or might be happening today! 480 pages (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.