Book Review: Don’t Read the Comments

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith


Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault (off page), Assault, Doxxing, Harassment, Cyberbullying

Divya Sharma is one of the most popular players of Reclaim the Sun, one of the hottest games of the year. With her #AngstArmada and popular game streaming, she’s the best of the best and is using her rising popularity and sponsorships to help pay the bills for her and her mom to survive. Gaming is Aaron Jericho’s life, despite his doctor mom’s ambitions for him to take over her practice. When Aaron gets an invite to join the famous D1V in exploring a planet, he’s flabbergasted. But gamer trolls exist everywhere, and they are coming to topple D1V.

This was incredible. I’m not a gamer, but I absolutely loved the way Reclaimed the Sun was described, and the concept of exploring planets for points and the knowledge of seeing new worlds instead of conquest and battle and fighting was a refreshing and breathtaking joy.

There was a lot to talk about in this book, and yet it didn’t become an “issues” book although the ending was wrapped up a bit too nicely for real life (and I was sad about what happened with Divya at the end).

I also liked how real Divya and Aaron’s lives were and how their physical lives influenced their virtual ones, and how Divya was battling burnout and fame while knowing that she had to keep on gaming despite everything so that she could provide for her mother and her schooling (her mom was going to library school! Yes!).

There were a lot of things going on in this book, particularly with how woman and people of color are treated in the gaming community, and particularly how conventionally pretty women are marginalized and diminished because “they’re only there to look pretty.” Plus how women are treated as commodities—and campus rape and sexual assault are handled. But how the treatment is changing, and how there are some people in the policing community who are taking a stand against what was once considered unpunishable. And also how people of color and the children of immigrants are pressured to do better and do all because of how much their parents sacrificed for their children.

The theme of the book is the title, and yet it clearly shows that there are some times that the mantra Don’t Read the Comments just…doesn’t work. Because words can hurt, just as badly as sticks and stones—and much worse when all these elements are combined.

And because online trolls aren’t just 40-year-old incels living in their mother’s basements—they are people like you and me, they are the invisible portion of the population, they are savvy, and they feel disenfranchised by brown people and women taking what they consider as “their” places. They’re damn wrong, but their anger in this book is palpable.

Which leads me to talk about gatekeeping, and who matters. In gaming. In life. In everything. And how everyone can be a gamer, if that’s how they identify.

There are no secret codes.

No specific quantity of trivia that must be memorized.

No specific games that must be played and mastered.

There are no time requirements, no X hours played per day to be real.

If you game, you are a gamer.

So log on, fight back.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

Don’t Read the Comments released 28 January 2020 from Inkyard Press

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