25 April 2011

FTW? Eh. (end-book review)

The prediction I made at the end of my last post was true: I was just a few pages away from when things got exciting, and I had to keep reading until the end. However, I think I'll stand by my original declaration that this is Mr. Doctorow's worst novel ever.

"For the Win" lacks the depth I've come to expect from the author. Certain events designed to make a reader feel a certain way fell flat and felt unnecessary to me. After a while, I felt like I was watching a so-so TV series with a forced cliffhanger at the end of each episode, put in not necessarily to add to the story, but to just keep the audience interested.

In that sense, certain characters' deaths were also unnecessary. The first one didn't have to happen as the larger event it was part of was horrific enough. I kind of think this one was put in just to make two other characters cry.

The second one was even more melodramatic, and the inspiration it was supposed to lend to everyone else felt superficial; the others were already operating on their own and would have kept going even if this character hadn't died. No need to pass a baton they were already holding. (I realize that this was kind of the author's point, but he didn't have to make it this way. Already, the others were on their way to the big meeting without this character; this one could simply have receded into the background and happily let things take on a life of their own.)

I'm not saying that just because I was attached to the characters because, again, it was hard to feel deeply attached to any of the characters.  Despite their importance, they still fell in the lower half of the meaningful death scale of redshirt to Sirius Black.

All that said, "FTW" has its good points. I liked the interludes where Mr. Doctorow explained certain economic concepts; I now have a better handle on inflation and shady financial deals than I ever did in school or looking stuff up on Investopedia (though it's still a pretty good resource).

I also liked the author's eye and ear for local color and culture. I like how he captured everyday life and the background sights and sounds in each place (Mumbai, Singapore, Shenzhen, California, etc.) without exoticizing any of it.

For all my complaints about characterization, it's also nice to see his brand of strong female characters: smart, resourceful girls who serve as important additions to the story, not just as the token chick in the ragtag team.

My closing statement? I probably wouldn't read this again, but with an intriguing premise and the huge potential for a diverse cast, I'd line up for tickets if it got adapted for a smart summer blockbuster.

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