I have previously enjoyed reading Cory Doctorow‘s books especially Pirate Cinema. So when I first heard about his planned graphic novel, I knew I had to read it. Synopsis mentioned a female protagonist and it was set in the world of multi player RPGs. The cover art was killer and that just about did it. The minute I received my copy of the galley, I tore through it. My verdict lies somewhere between good and could have been better.
Anda is a branded geek and she enjoys online multi player role-playing games. When given an opportunity to play Coarsegold Online, a hugely popular MMORPG, she leaves no stones unturned to make her experience memorable. From choosing a kick ass screen name, to creating an avatar that fits the part – she does everything right. She goes on quests, does some more kick ass stuff and is basking in the glory of her success when she encounters Raymond. Raymond is a gold farmer in the online world of gaming and in real life works for that very purpose in a cloistered space, somewhere in China. This opens up a can of worms for Anda, when she realises the real deal behind the paid missions and the truth of gold farming.
Doctorow turns our attention to the much prevalent gold farming in the online gaming scenario using Raymond’s situation. Anda’s attempts to help him and asking him to fight for his rights while hardly understanding the consequences of her advice is what the story is mainly about.
In Real Life sometimes takes an easier way out while discussing complex themes but knowing that it is intended for a younger audience, it’s understandable. However, older readers might feel discontented with the treatment of the subject. Graphic novels unlike other formats are wider in scope. This could have been used rather effectively to discuss the disparity of rights among first and third world citizens.
Jen Wang‘s art adds a zing to the book and is probably what makes it a compulsive read. I even went back a couple of times after I had finished reading, to see the minute details and the attention she had paid to what seemed very trivial to the plot. Along with Fiona Staples, Jen Wang has now been added to the list of ‘absolutely must read’ illustrators.
To sum it up, In Real Life is superbly illustrated graphic novel that deals with multiple relevant issues in today’s world where children are over exposed to the online world of gaming.
Review copy provided by First Second Books