Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom

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A little more exhausting than entertaining.
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, The Fix
Would have been better served if it was only half as long.
Gardner Dozois, Asimov’s message boards
Unfortunately, Moles … left this reader behind, even after multiple readings. 1 out of 5 stars.
John DeNardo, SF Signal
Takes … our modern culture of mmorpgs and pushes it to the next level … complex, sympathetic characters … quite engaging.
Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker
Another standout … The story’s parodies of gamer culture are hilarious, but Moles also raises the stakes by forcing characters into moral quandaries, in which they must decide whether they’re acting rightly or merely playing a game.
James A. Trimarco, Strange Horizons

The cast members’ worst fears failed to materialize. No one was erased, and the Kingdom’s servers — as far as anyone could tell from inside the game — continued to run. Part of dynamic realism, it seemed, was a reluctance on management’s part to intervene by sysadmin ex machina.

But what equally failed to materialize was the player boycott the union had hoped for. If anything, the novelty of the strike was attracting even more players. Redbeak, denied access to the pier, hung up his fishing pole, got his battleground gear out of storage, and set himself up on the main road into Dragontown, picking fights with corven and gaunts. ‘Immersive worldbuilding,’ of a sort.

And if Ambrayses was actually negotiating with anyone, Imogen wasn’t hearing about it.

In the smaller towns, villages, outposts and instances, particularly in the low- and mid-levels, things quickly turned bad. Immersive worldbuilding attracted the curious guest; dynamic realism attracted the sadistic. Low-level strikers poured into Dragontown, telling of high-level guests crossing the Dragonlands, looting, burning, killing for sport. Many of the new arrivals were dead, and even the living were severely traumatized. Many of the dead refused to respawn or be resurrected, preferring the relative safety of the spirit world — and, some said privately, its comforting numbness — to the chance of suffering again what they had already suffered.

A lot more elected to stay dead after the strikebreakers showed up.

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