This is Not a Game (#1)

Next: Deep State

When you play one of Dagmar’s online games, you can’t just shut down the computer and walk away. The games pursue you into real life: you start getting emails and phone calls from fictional characters, perfect strangers ask you to help solve their problems, and sometimes you’re asked to volunteer for a mission to discover a vital clue.

But now something is pursuing Dagmar.  

From the anarchy of a street riot in Indonesia to the brutality of a Mafia killing in Los Angeles, from the seedy glitz of Hollywood to the ruthless international currency market, Dagmar finds herself at the center of an intrigue far more desperate than those she devises for entertainment.

And somehow, she knows, the key to the puzzle lies in her own past, and the gaming group she joined in college.  

Dagmar must draw on all her powers, not the least of which is her circle of online gamers whose well-honed puzzle-solving skills may prove vital to preserving her life.

This Is Not a Game. And there is no Second Life. 


“Williams weaves intriguing questions about games, gamers and their relationships with real life into this well-paced near-future thriller […] it’s convincingly written; the characters are realistic and absorbing, and the story deeply compelling.”

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Walter Jon Williams begins with a knowing and sympathetic grasp of gamer culture, and proceeds through schemes and stratagems with a good deal of gamesmanship himself. THIS IS NOT A GAME is a tale every bit as engaging as one of the intrigues its characters might have dreamed up.”


“THIS IS NOT A GAME succeeds not only as a suspense novel, but as an incisive portrait of a subculture for whom reality is increasingly contingent, and increasingly mediated.”


“Masterfully written and executed, scarily relevant, and massively entertaining, THIS IS NOT A GAME is a gem of a novel and should be on everyone’s reading list.”

Fantasy Book Critic

“Williams’ dialogue is razor-sharp, his plotting breakneck, his eye for trends keen and his empathy with his characters deep. He allots equal time to the emotional development of Dagmar and the book’s conceptual brain candy. She emerges from this tale changed, but with her core values reinforced. A reluctant hero for our era, she proves that with and geekdom trump brute force and greed.”

Sci-Fi Wire

“In THIS IS NOT A GAME Walter Jon Williams provides an intricately-plotted and action-filled game-within-a-game story which is hard to put down. It’s also refreshingly to have a female protagonist who is neither a bubblehead nor a Buffy wannabe, but simply an intelligent and believable person who reacts to danger in a realistic way. “

Green Man Review

“THIS IS NOT A GAME is a technothriller with the distinction of being written with a respect for the reader’s intelligence.”

Strange Horizons

“If you enjoy a good (techno) thriller this book is as good as it gets […] thought THIS IS NOT A GAME was a very entertaining read.”

Book Spot Central

“This book is expertly written, with just the right mix of fast-paced action, careful plotting and the dash of humour that Williams is well-known for. The characters are well-formed and believable, and Walter does a good job of providing just enough information to set your imagination alight without over-cooking it. In fact, I’m incredibly hard-pushed to find anything negative about the book at all […] It’s a superb book, and is well worth reading.”

Concept Sci-Fi

“THIS IS NOT A GAME is great geeky fun […] I enjoyed how everything tied together in the end, the exciting plot, and Dagmar’s character.”

Fantasy Book Cafe

“THIS IS NOT A GAME is a wonderful exploration of current merging of online and offline worlds. It’s a thriller/crime tale that made this reader slightly paranoid. The events don’t need that much of a stretch the imagination […] I don’t really have any criticism. I love the small touches like the chapter titles, the way that email and forum entries are seamlessly inserted into the narrative and how scarily Williams blurs the lines so easily […] Highly Recommended.”

Gav Reads

“There are some really enjoyable touches of humour – Williams’ has great fun with his gamers and their responses to the unfolding drama – which both manages to give some welcome relief to the gritted tension elsewhere, yet also highlight the gravity of the underlying situation. It’s a neat trick to pull off.”


“This is a novel that’s truly of the internet age; most of the behind-the-scenes action happening in the pages would have been inconceivable only a decade ago. However, that doesn’t mean that readers have to be familiar with the tech to appreciate the story. THIS IS NOT A GAME is at its heart a good suspense novel, a technothriller for the Facebook generation that will keep readers engaged until its final pages. Highly recommended.”

Enter the Octopus

Awards & Accolades