In this novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends—often in love, but never lovers—come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.
Moral complexity is a hallmark of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, which takes its title from Shakespeare, not Nintendo...But even while alluding to that anguished soliloquy about the brevity and meaninglessness of life, Zevin has her hand on the joystick...In a moment, she flips Macbeth’s lament into a countervailing celebration of the endless possibilities of rebirth and renewal, the chance to play again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...In the story that develops, Sam and Sadie become legendary founders of a company called Unfair Games, and questions about the fairness or unfairness of who gets the credit, who bears the responsibility and who makes the final decisions continue to churn off-screen as their many fans keep clamoring for more, more, more...Zevin provides alluring descriptions of the products that Unfair Games creates, and she includes just enough technical detail to make us feel as if we may understand what a graphics engine does, but she rarely exploits the gaming structure much in this conventionally told novel...In her acknowledgments, Zevin describes herself as 'a lifelong gamer'...That level of experience could very well have produced a story of hermetically sealed nostalgia impenetrable to anyone who doesn’t still own a copy of 'Space Invaders'...But instead, she’s written a novel that draws any curious reader into the pioneering days of a vast entertainment industry too often scorned by bookworms.
... delightful and absorbing ... What’s largely absent here, however, are the unadorned realities of game-making. The despair, for instance, that results from an idea that seems as if it should be fun, but isn’t fun, no matter what you do. There’s very little depiction of how central play-testing and quality assurance are to game design, or of nuking core design conceits because of cost overruns or talent underruns. For the most part, Sam and Sadie’s games tend to work out the way they imagine they will ... No one — trust me on this — wants an entirely accurate novel about game development, which would be a thousand pages of motionless ennui with an exciting 10-page coda, but if there’s a criticism to make of Zevin’s novel, it’s that the professional parts of her game creators’ lives seem far too easy, while the personal parts often seem far too hard ... Some readers will doubtless appreciate Zevin’s unflinching willingness to show how the cancer of American violence can strike down the gentlest and most admirable among us, but this event also turns the cultural problem of American violence into an aesthetic problem within the novel. Aesthetic problems might get your knuckles thwacked in a book review, but fiction can’t meaningfully address a cultural issue as significant as this one without making it absolutely central to the story the writer is trying to tell. It’s not as if the violent event depicted by Zevin isn’t believable. It’s all too believable. The problem is that, however horrifying and shocking, this violent event is just not as interesting as what’s around it ... But not everything in a story as expansive and entertaining as Zevin’s can be the best part, as they say, and we merry dozens of Literary Gamers will cherish the world she’s lovingly conjured. Meanwhile, everyone else will wonder what took them so long to recognize in video games the beauty and drama and pain of human creation.
... engrossing ... Though it contains plenty of nostalgia for the pioneer age of 1990s game design, this isn’t primarily a novel of nerdy insider references ... Ms. Zevin’s great strength as a storyteller is her easygoing nature, and she’s mostly content to advance the novel slowly and patiently with well-realized landmark events. But the spell of her narrative is broken by a random explosion of violence in the novel’s final third, which introduces the sorts of traumas and mawkish life lessons characteristic of young-adult fiction ... Which makes me wonder if it’s possible for novels involving videogames to ever fully mature, even as relationships built on them continue. What do gamers do together when they grow up? Ms. Zevin’s pleasingly immersive book is on surest ground when exploring the meanings and metaphysics of play, an inherently youthful activity.