Tag Archives: Florence

It’s All in the Game

Fortuna by Michael R. Stevens (Oceanview Publishing)

Jason weighed the situation for a moment, and then decided to risk jumping out of character.   “Pisa isn’t in the game,” he typed.   Very quickly, the voice responded.   “This isn’t a game.”

Fortuna is a rollicking E-ticket ride from first-time author-musician-technology expert Michael Stevens.   This is the story of Jason Lind, a computer science major at Stanford.   Jason is brilliant but bored and then he discovers the web-based game of Fortuna.   As in Second Life, Fortuna offers the chance for Jason to re-create himself.   The digital version of Jason is a living, breathing, avatar in medieval Florence, Italy.   However, playing the game has its costs – financially, time-wise and to Jason’s relationships…

The game of Fortuna eventually so absorbs Jason that he faces losing his teaching assistant position at The Farm and – quite possibly – the prospect of dropping out of school.   One aspect of Fortuna is gambling; real people gamble for riches and status for their digital persona.   But when the gamble is lost, debts must be paid off in true American dollars.   The penalty to fail to pay one’s debts is death.

Jason’s huge debts cause him to take a job at the high-tech Silicon Valley company GPC, where his late father worked.   Jason’s uncle heads the company that is rumored to have ties to organized crime.   GPC provides some immediate funds and protection for Jason but he may not be safe anywhere.

Eventually, Jason must run for his life as he faces threats from both inside the game of Fortuna (“You are in danger.”), and in real life.   Jason’s father – one Nicholas Fabonacci – gave 50 million dollars to Stanford before dying under mysterious and questionable circumstances.   Was Fabonacci – whose name graces a newer building on the campus in Palo Alto – killed and, if so, will Jason share his fate?

Perhaps the best aspect of this computer technology-mystery-thriller is that the reader will not anticipate the ending in advance.   Fortuna is about a massive struggle between good and evil – Machiavellian in nature.   Which one wins in the end?   You will have to read the 290 pages of Fortuna to find out the answer.

Highly recommended.   Fortuna is a game worth playing and a unique tale that is well worth reading. “Wild and addicting!”   Shane Gericke (Cut to the Bone)

Fortuna will be released on Monday, May 3, 2010.   A review copy was provided by Oceanview Publishing.

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Handbags and Gladrags: The House of Gucci

This is one of those books that makes you wish you could read faster.   It is also a fascinating tale that works well on many levels.   It is primarily a business and family biography – the rise and fall and rise of the Gucci luxury fashion house and merchandise company.   This story begins in 1904 in Florence, Italy and carries us forward to the cruel 1995 killing of the founder’s grandson.

It is also a true-crime story as we find out who wanted Maurizio Gucci murdered and why.   Author Sara Guy Forden seems to have access to every family event, fact, rumor and relationship.   This is not a drive-by biography, instead it is one in which the reader feels like he/she is reliving the events at close distance…   Waiting in the weeds.

Forden also does a fine job of including just the right amount of information on Italian culture and traditions.   This may be a key reason this company tale seems so much more interesting than those detailing the rise and fall of American family-run corporations.

Finally, Forden reminds us of the foibles and terrors of human nature, which include intra-family rivalries, jealousies, and deadly grudges.   In the end, this is very much – as promised – a sensational story of murder, madness, glamour, and greed.

Eccezionale!

Joseph Arellano

Note:   This book was purchased by the reviewer.

House of Gucci

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