I was not expecting to be so enthralled by a novel about people who create video games, a topic I know nothing about. The characters might have been involved in any undertaking where a combination of talent, luck, and hard work can result in a big reward and great recognition within that field. It was the unique connections among the characters that made it such an appealing story.
Sam and Sadie meet when they are 11-year-old children in a hospital where Sam is being treated for a crushed foot and Sadie had been visiting her sister who had cancer. They connect playing games, and their time together is life changing for both of them. After a year, they fall out and do not see each other until they bump into each other in Boston where Sam is at Harvard and Sadie at MIT in the 1990s. As the book cover says, over the years as they collaborate and build a game company, they are often in love, but are never lovers. The third key character is Marx, Sam’s roommate at Harvard who from the outset, takes care of Sam like a mother would.
The storytelling was pleasingly non-linear. While you know from the outset that Sam had a crushed foot, it is much later that how that came to be is told. It’s of interest that Sam and Marx are of Korean heritage, and while that is important, it is far from the focus. There is a short section of the story told by a person who is unconscious, a very effective way that part of the plot is revealed.
At some point in their corporate life, they produce a game that I think I recognized as standing for FarmVille, a game I heard work colleagues talk about. My impression was that it was different from the stay-up-all-night, addicting video games that people played alone. I read in Wikipedia that social networking was an aspect of the game that could be used to make improvements in the farm.
The cover art for the audiobook is Hokusai’s Great Wave, which Sadie had on her wall at MIT. When they are beginning work on their first game, Sadie tells Sam that is what their game should look like.
And another cultural reference is, of course, the title. That phrase begins the second sentence of MacBeth’s soliloquy after he learns of Lady MacBeth’s death and ends with him describing life this way: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Now that is an important bit of information that high school students encounter, and for me, was useful to learn. I recall being surprised at such a clear, rash statement being revealed to us. Is MacBeth still taught in high schools?
Gabrielle Zevin, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Alfred A. Knopf, 2022, 401 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available in the public library.