The God Game
Author: Danny Tobey
Publication Date: 07 January 2020
Genre: YA – Sci-Fi/Thriller
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
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.
I was immediately drawn to The God Game because of the premise. While I am not a gamer or computer nerd in any sort of sense, I found the idea of a game playing god and the potential consequences associated with it fascinating. What I ended up getting was a something much darker and more sinister that pushed the boundaries of human morality, which I loved.
Charlie and his friends (Peter, Alex, Kenny, and Vanhi) are all in their senior year of high school. They refer to themselves as The Vindicators. They code together and game together. One day they all get a mysterious invitation to join The G.O.D. game, which promises to give them things of their wildest dreams. With each of them battling their own struggles, they jump at the opportunity to finally get something good out of the game of life. However, as with all good things that are too good to be true, they will all learn that the rewards of God come with steep sacrifices…and the only way to leave the game is through death.
Right from the beginning, I was captivated by The God Game. Each of the characters in this book has some sort of flaw that they are grappling with (e.g. suicide ideation, grief following death of a parent, abusive relationships, sexual identity, bullying, etc). While I think that some people are going to think that this is a bit extreme or over the top, I completely see what the author was trying to convey by highlighting these different real world issues that teenagers are plagued with. Additionally, by adding these layers of complications, it is easy to grasp how these teenagers become vulnerable to such manipulation and are willing to commit heinous acts in order to have some semblance of a good life.
I thought the overall writing of the book was well done. The short chapters really made the pages fly by considering this book is just shy of 500. I thought the characters were well defined and appreciated their development. While there were a lot of characters in this book, I didn’t feel that any of them were superfluous. Additionally, the diversity in this book was done in a way that enhanced the story rather than being thrown in for the sake of it.
Honestly, if you’re a fan of Black Mirror and the whole concept of morality being shades of grey versus black and white then you’ll definitely enjoy this fast-paced, thrilling read.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing a copy for review. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.