88 Names by Matt Ruff 📚

I read the author’s Lovecraft Country some time ago (and the HBO series based on that novel starts next week), so I was interested to see this take on online gaming culture in a society only slightly more technologically advanced than our own. The stakes are much lower (beating an online dungeon raid rather overcoming the combined forces of racism and eldritch horror), and even when the action spills over into real life gunplay the characters don’t really seem to have their hearts in the game; it seems like just another raid. I found the protagonist too self centered, a privileged gamer who makes a living by violating terms of service for profit and doesn’t always treat his fellow “sherpas” with the respect they deserve; because the entire story is told from his first person viewpoint I felt that the secondary characters were not given enough screen time, making them feel more like stereotype NPC’s rather than real people.

I also felt shortchanged by the plot’s meandering path to semi-resolution; I never did figure out the significance of the title (perhaps if I was a gamer myself it would be obvious?) and I have never liked an almost literal deus ex machina ending. On the other hand the action sequences kept me turning the pages, and although the style echoes William Gibson slightly it does so with a different voice. Despite having mixed feelings about this particular outing I will be adding more the author’s books to my reading list.

88 Names