The God Game by Danny Tobey
Published by St. Martin’s Press on January 7, 2020 (expected)
Genre(s): fiction, science fiction
Format & Length: e-book, 464
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You are invited!
COme inside and play with G.O.D.
Bring your friends!
But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!
With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.
But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?
And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life—does it?
As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.
God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.
If you were invited to play a game in which, if you win, all your dreams come true? But if you lose, you die. Would you still play?
That’s the opening premise of The God Game. And Charlie and his friends decide they want to play. The missions they are tasked with start small and are fairly harmless, even if morally or ethically questionable. Over time, the choices they are presented with become more difficult to make.
As this story follows a group of five friends, the plot was complex, with several subplots that twisted together. In providing resolution for all of these subplots, it wound up being pretty long. It didn’t drag, though. With plenty of the action and intrigue, this was fast paced and compelling for most of the story. As it began to come to a close, I was disappointed in the way the ending appeared to be going until the final chapter brought a chilling conclusion that knocked me for a loop.
The God Game has a definite point of view, and certain moments were heavy handed. It deals with morality on multiple levels, from that of the individual to that of the crowd through examining the various relationships. And it makes some interesting points. However, they may have been stronger without some of the subplots, leaving more space to develop the core characters and their relationships further.
This book won’t be for everyone but there is certainly a market for it. The God Game reminded me of the 2016 movie Nerve and a strong comparison can be made to Black Mirror. It also has a cinematic quality, and I can easily see this being adapted for the screen. If this sounds like your kind of book, definitely give it a shot.
*Thanks to the publisher for providing an arc of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.