This is a book about people, not plot. The main characters, Sadie Green and Sam Masur, are young brilliant people with a fascination for games. They grow up and found a successful video games company. They love each other, but are not partners, not of the romantic sort, at least they don’t seem to be in the early going. The author leaves that unanswered until the end. They fight; they reconcile. There are moments of triumph and joy and many tragedies and mistakes. Sam’s college roommate, Marx Watanabe, takes on the role of Sam’s protector and big brother and later game producer. He is as much a main character as Sam and Sadie. Many others, mostly from the game company, fill out the roster. The backstories on all the characters and their parents are fleshed out as separate short stories with the overarching novel. In a way this can be considered a high concept book. It is about story-telling, about life and love and grief.
Much as I enjoyed the book, it left me just a little disappointed, or perhaps more accurately, unfulfilled. I’m used to murder mysteries and spy novels and science fiction. I miss the plot. I like the idea of a goal being set and worked toward, whether it’s solving the murder, escaping a peril, or successfully creating a post-apocalyptic social order. The author writes beautifully and the characters are interesting. I think the author is a frustrated game designer herself. She certainly invents a number of them throughout the book and they’re fun diversions. But the book is more like taking a bus tour through lovely landscape just to enjoy the leisurely pace and all the visual treats, but ending up at the beginning, rather than running a marathon through that same countryside with a clear goal in mind. I had to fight off snatches of boredom here and there to reach the end, but I’m very glad I read the book.