I started reading TINAG some time last month, read half of it in a day, hit a snag of some sort--possibly involving exhaustion--and set it down. This past weekend as part of my "read, dammit" resolution, I picked it back up. After the long hiatus, it was something of an act of will, but I'm certainly glad that I did it, quickly picked up the steam I had lost and finishing the read in good time.
I almost used the title "This Is Not a Book Review" for this post, but it turns out that a ton of people have already made that joke. Every chapter in This Is Not a Game uses the "this is not a..." structure. Halfway through the book I started getting a bit tired of that, but by the end had regained my admiration; many of them are clever, and some of them wryly misleading.
I am delighted to find myself in the target audience for this book: people who are reasonably plugged in to the internet, aware of how software and its creators work, and who know a thing or two about role-playing.
TINAG is possibly the most fun thing Williams has done since Drake Maijstral. Between this and Implied Spaces he seems to have found a new devil-may-care attitude toward writing, a bit of a change from the occasionally frowning seriousness of some earlier work. Not that these are humorous books by any stretch, but he doesn't seem to be sweating the small stuff, instead focusing on deliciously complicated plots, a handful of compelling characters, and vast quantities of Cool.
It's right-now setting and fast pace contribute to something that might even be called hip, unless that's become a pejorative. The cast is intriguing (Austin, BJ, Charlie, Dagmar--I am still trying to figure out if that means something, or is just an authorial whim), the supporting characters in particular, and it's clear that Williams knows something about gaming, and gamers who--hurrah--get to be included in as something other than Cheetos-stained comic relief.
I'm not sure it's High Art, and it's probably not going to age very well--too much is dependent on the current technological and political world--but I found it an extremely fun read and recommend it without hesitatation.
With this one under my belt, I have read a whopping seven new books this year. Not exactly something to brag about, but better than I've done in some years, and I should be able to read five more by the end of the year.