If you haven’t read the previous book in this series, This Is Not A Game, go away now as this review will have explicit spoilers for that novel as there’s no way to discuss this novel without referring to the events of the first one.
Dagmar Shaw, story designer and puppetmaster of ARGs (advanced reality games) which mix LARPs (live action roleplaying games) with MMORGs (massive multiplayer online roleplaying games) has survived not only a military coup in Indonesia where she was rescued by players of her ARGs, but the death of all three of her long-time friends ever since they’d been at university. And Dagmar herself is responsible for one of those deaths – she placed in his car an explosive that he intended for her, which he then detonated, thinking he was blowing her up to cover his tracks.
Of course she’s not only lost the boss of her company, she’s lost the venture capitalist who financed that company. So now she finds herself trying to keep Great Big Idea, the ARG running company, afloat. Not an uneasy task given she’s an über geek, not an über money person. All of which explains how she ends up in yet another unstable country, Turkey this time, running an ARG just as those generals decide to throw out those democratically elected leaders, a situation that has played itself out before in that both young and very old state.
Things turn uncomfortable for her and her staff when the live action aspects of her ARG attract the attention of the military government, and then deadly when one of her workers dies in a protest that she assisted in creating. What was intended as just entertainment for hopefully millions around the globe quickly became a matter of both toppling the government and keeping her staff safe, something that will make Dagmar a reluctant participant in the Great Game of diplomacy by other means.
One final point. This trilogy is one of the few sf series I’ve seen that handles technology and personal matters equally well. There’s very little technology here, if any, that’s more than a few years out. And Dagmar will continue her evolution as a PTSD victim in This Is Not A Game toward something better with a significant new relationship.