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Walter Jon Williams

Dagmar Shaw, book 3

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9780316133395

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

This is the third book in Williams’ series about Dagmar Shaw (the others are This is Not a Game and Deep State). It therefore contains spoilers for those two books.

This one is not like the others because Dagmar is not the main protagonist. Instead, she moves onto the sidelines, becoming a somewhat shadowy, sometimes even fearsome, mover and shaker. I was a bit surprised by this change because Dagmar had worked so very well in the others; she’s a character I developed a great rapport with. To see her from the perspective of someone else – someone to whom she is a stranger, and quite strange – was disconcerting. It does mean that someone could very easily read this without having read the other two; having read the first two it meant that I had a greater trust than Sean, the narrator, could have in her. Which distanced me slightly from Sean, and meant that I kept expecting great things from Dagmar.

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Walter Jon Williams

Dagmar Shaw Book #2

Orbit (2011)

ISBN: 9780316098045

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

Dagmar Shaw is a game designer, but her games are way more interesting than any MMORPG that exists today. I never entirely came to grips with what Alternate Reality Games actually entail, but it has players follow a story, interpret clues online, and it sometimes has real-world connections. The story opens with Dagmar Shaw designing a James Bond movie tie-in game that sees some players going to Turkey to actually follow some of the action in real life, while tens of thousands of others follow the video and other media Dagmar and her employees upload to the web. She runs a successful game, and is then recruited by a US – ah – security specialist to do some interesting things in Turkey. Which she does. Things do not go entirely to plan, not unexpectedly.

It’s interesting coming to Deep State after having read The Dervish House. Both are set in Turkey, but that’s about where the similarities end. The plots are entirely different, and Deep State isn’t as futuristic as Dervish House. More interestingly, where McDonald made almost all of his characters Turkish, and events happen exclusively in Istanbul with little reference to the outside world, Williams has only a few Turkish characters, and the plot revolves around foreigners getting themselves involved in Turkish politics. Williams does seem to know Istanbul, but he doesn’t evince quite the same love for the country as McDonald; and Turkey is not of the same fundamental importance to Williams as it was to McDonald. Deep State could as easily be set almost anywhere but Western Europe, I think. Turkey, although quite well realised, is not irreplaceable.

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