Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Books I've Read: Slay

First up, I'm not a gamer so the world this book is set in is a little alien to me.  That said, the author managed to vividly describe the world inside the game so I never felt like I didn't understand it.  It actually felt a lot like a game you'd play offline, around a table with a bunch of friends.  One of my sons plays Magic, and this felt a lot like an online version of something like that (at least from my limited understanding of Magic).

But as well as being about gaming, this book explores ideas about racism and exclusion and what those things really mean.  It's a book about being Black and what that means for different people.

Kiera is a super-smart kid who not only is at the top of her class at the exclusive private school the attends, but also finds time to be a tutor to fellow students, and build and maintain this epic online world she's created.  She has help with that, of course, but overall, it's her baby and she spends a lot of time on it.

Secret time.  Even her parents and sister don't know she's behind SLAY.  So when someone in the real world is murdered as a result of a fight over SLAY currency, Kiera has no one to turn to for help.  As the media discovers the game and that it's available only to Black gamers, Kiera faces some of the most vicious hate-speech she's ever faced.

Things get worse when a troll infiltrates the game and threatens to sue her and take over the game.

This is a world Kiera has built.  A world where she is not different from everyone else. A world in which she can be herself.  So that world is worth protecting.

Whatever the cost.

I really enjoyed this book because it offered a perspective into two worlds I'm not usually privy to: gaming and Black life.  Kiera is an engaging protagonist, whip smart in many ways, but also a little naive.  Perfect for someone of her age and experience.

Definitely one I'd recommend.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the "downfall of the Black man."

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for "anti-white discrimination."

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

1 comment:

  1. I'm kind of interested in reading it because I'd like to know how a teenager could create a giant MMO and not have anyone in her family know about it. I guess they ignored her for the days she spent locked up programming!