For the Win by Cory Doctorow. Take one part MMO, one part economics lesson, and one part underdog story. That's For the Win in a nutshell. In the not too distant future, online gaming is even more popular than it is now. People make their living from the games, not just the companies who run them but players who work as gold farmers and the like. In some parts of the world, gold farming is run like sweatshop labor, and it's still the best living the kids playing are bound to see. However, there are brave workers who want to see a change in the system, for gamers to be treated fairly and paid fairly. Online and offline, the forces gather, preparing for a revolution and a change for the better. Wrapped up in this sprawling story are Wei-Dong, an American gamer who lives in privilege, Mala, an Indian girl whose prowess at gaming has earned her respect and income, and Matthew, a Chinese gamer who once farmed gold for a boss and is now trying to strike out on his own, as well as many others. Truly a global tale, this book succeeds for several reasons: the realistic, if not always likable, characters; the believable depictions of online gaming (I'm not a huge MMO player (but I love Puzzle Pirates) but I've played a few in my time and hang out with many who play religiously, and all of the stuff in this book rings true); the economic knowledge that understanding of the plot hinges on is explained simply but thoroughly; and the story walks the line between being realistic and hopeful in its outlook. I was constantly reminded of Neal Stephenson's writing, particularlyThe Diamond Age, but while the books are similar in the large casts and casual integration of semi-advanced and/or obscure subjects, Doctorow's book is a lot less grim, less of a crapsack world.
I'll finish up by saying that this book should be read by all gamers and anyone with a social conscious. Just like any good Terry Pratchett novel, Cory Doctorow's For the Win has a message hidden within its gripping story, something for you to think about long after you've closed the book. All in all, this is a great novel.