MetaGame is easily one of the best books that I have read this year. Sam Landstrom takes the cultural phenomenon of the gaming industry and applies to the concept of human productivity. In this fantastically written novel, Landstrom asks us: what if the principles of gaming, i.e. reward structures, were applied to human life? MetaGame is a story not simply about a future predicated on gaming as a measure of productivity but a story of romance, friendship and morality. In this, Sam Landstrom excels and weaves a tale that offers something to readers coming at it from all different angles.
MetaGame begins with the introduction of our principal character, D_Light, otherwise known as D or Dee throughout the novel. He is a mid-level player who tends to play “spanking” games where points are awarded for roleplaying in a medieval setting and killing monsters. D_Light becomes notorious when he kills a woman who he is considering purchasing an “intimacy permit” with when Rule Seven is enforced (a rule that means all killing, including that of other players, is permitted). His notoriety brings him to the attention of Lyra, a high-level noble who has been invited to play a MetaGame, a series of quests around a specific topic, this time ‘The Hunter’.
Throughout the novel, we are introduced to a vast array of characters who all represent in different ways the dynamics of the gaming industry. From those specialising in social networking to those who have never experienced gaming in their lives, Landstrom taps into that familiar work and works it into a novel that captures the reader’s imagination and draws them into this world he has created. Landstrom is an early player in the science-fiction genre that introduces gaming into their world with authors such as Charles Stross in Rule 34 and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline both introducing similar mechanics.
In any novel, the challenge is to create a story that has characters who the reader can believe in, to create a world that fascinates and intrigues. D_Light begins as a character who is “just another player”, looking for that end goal of “immortality” but finishes the novel as the unbeknownst hero. Landstrom’s blend of science-fiction themes with a religious overtone (the OverSoul as a God) demonstrates that, even in a world governed by the accrual of points, we are all seeking something more than simply the next batch of points.
This novel has set the standard in the science-fiction genre and I suspect it will be difficult to find another novel like it. At the end of the novel, there was an aching desire for a sequel, to expand on the world Landstrom has lovingly created. The disappointment when I discovered no such sequel existed is something rarely felt when I finish a book. For that, MetaGame should be applauded. Anyone who reads this book and has an interest in either science-fiction or gaming will surely struggle to put it down again until they’ve read it to the end.