For the Win by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In the dungeons and fairy kingdoms of the online gaming world, a new breed of worker is emerging. The gold farmers are teenagers from the slums of Mumbai to the backwaters of China, toiling in internet cafes and back rooms to earn gold to sell to westerners eager to get their avatar to the next level. These workers don't see the fruits of their labours though - the ones making a profit are the bosses and the owners of the cafes who pay a pittance and expect long hours in return, but when it's a choice between playing the game and working in a factory, then it's no choice at all.
Little by little, the workers come to realise that they have the power to withhold their labour. A network is formed between Yasmin, the girl from the slums, Ashok, an economics guru, Leonard from Los Angeles, a handful of young Chinese men and others and they begin to form a union called the International Workers of the World Wide Web, mentored by the mysterious Big Sister Nor. When a strike is called, the bosses and governments will respond with fists and knives and guns. Can the Webblies (as they call themselves) fight back with just the weapons of the virtual world?
This is possibly Cory Doctorow's most radical and subversive book yet, introducing its audience of young adults to the concepts of globalisation, market economics, the inner workings of virtual worlds and the power of trade unions. He does so with a plot that builds to a genuinely thrilling conclusion with characters who have to make life and death decisions about where their loyalties lie.
Excellent, and available as a free download from the author's site.
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