I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!
Maybe I'm too young for this novel. Born in '93, I wasn't young in the 1980ies -obviously- and therefore I might not have enjoyed this novel as much as someone who did. Because it is filled with (what I expect is) a lot of nostalgia to this early era of computer games.
Russel's live hasn't been too successful so far. He missed out on a chance to be co-founder of Black Arts, producing video games, and now he's back to beg for work. Although he hasn't really gained any more knowledge about developing games than he had in high school, he makes game design look easy. It's actually just playing around. (I don't know anything on game design or game programming myself, but I think it will be harder in real life. And I had some questions on the level of freedom people playing and NPCs had in the Black Arts games. When I remember games from the late-90ies and even ones that are a lot more modern, there never is so much choice. Instead of 20 ways to cross a river, I think you would find 3, maybe 4.)
The story itself is quite often interrupted by RPGs from the other games Black Arts created. It isn't always clear exactly when this happens and sometimes the the narrative changes into second-person addressing 'You' all the time, which is something I'm never really comfortable with. Although in general the story was quite enjoyable, I thought the many RPG parts in between (which read a bit like bad fantasy/sf stories) made the story feel too long and sometimes they were just not interesting or important enough. After a while, it became a bit boring. Overall, I think you'll probably like this if you were into gaming in the 1980ies, or really like (to read about) RPG-computer games.