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12:15pm on Monday, 25th June, 2007:

Somewhat Hurried


In transit over the past few days, I read Second Lives, by Tim Guest. This was a Radio 4 Book of the Week, so it had some serious publisher help behind it, but jeez, it seems really rushed. There are a number of fairly glaring typos and mis-spellings, and we get told the same things several times. These are the sort of irritation that just a little more editorial attention should have removed seamlessly; I assume, therefore, that they wanted to get the book out as soon as possible, and fix the errors in the patch (er, I mean second edition). Of course, an editor wouldn't have spotted the factual errors (I'm confused with Richard Garriott at one point, and Raph Koster gets the Ralph treatment); hopefully, those will be picked up on too.

Overall, the tone of the book is in between Julian Dibbell and Howard Rheingold, although less structured than either. It knitted together a number of disparate stories, including the author's own, but I didn't feel it was really working towards a conclusion. The last chapter did attempt to suggest what it was about virtual worlds that drew people to them, and what the positives and negatives might be, but it didn't really differentiate between Second Life and all the game-like worlds — somewhat crucial to an understanding of what's going on (it's like writing about documentaries and dramas as if people watched both for the same reasons).

I knew I personally wasn't going to get a great deal out of the book because I knew all this stuff anyway; I read it to discover what people new to the concept of virtual worlds were being told. On the whole, it's an easy introduction for them, and Tim Guest has done a reasonably good job. I just wish he hadn't given the impression that buying gold for use in worlds that don't sanction it was OK...

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).