Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: January 7th, 2020
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 seems fun at first. Harmless 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 mean you die 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.
The God Game, first caught my eye because of many early reviews comparing it to Stranger Things and Ready Player One. I personally think it bears more a resemblance to the latter rather than the former, but comparisons don’t really matter because what this IS, is a high octane crazy thrill ride that I found impossible to put down. I’m not exaggerating. I started this after supper Sunday night and wound up staying awake until almost 3:00 a.m. I kept telling myself “just one more chapter,” but nope. That didn’t work out.
Often times with books that have so much action, character development falls by the wayside. Not here though. There are quite a few characters in this story and you get almost all of their perspectives. This makes it so much easier to become emotionally invested in them. Every single one of them have things going on in their lives that will draw on your empathy, even the bullies. There are quite a few social themes that could be triggers for some readers. These include: death of a parent, death of a sibling, physical abuse, substance abuse, and bullying. There are scenes that are very dark, but they’re not overwhelming. Instead it made me understand how a “game” like this could appeal to so many.
The plot is creative and despite previous books like Ready Player One, manages to stand completely on its own. As I said, the pacing is just NUTS, and if you get this when it comes out in January, good luck putting it down once you’ve started reading!
The God Game is an intriguing and frightening look at the proliferation of AI in our society. It also explores theology, sociology, and politics as seen through the eyes of teenagers. It has so many anxiety-inducing twists that the only thing I could be sure of is to expect the unexpected, especially at the end. There are a couple of things that aren’t fully explained, but these are so minor (plus, given the lateness of the hour, I might have just missed them), that I’m not taking any points off. With the advances in AI technology, I’m not even going to say this is science fiction. Rather, it falls under the sub-genre of techno-thriller, so if you’re a fan of that, I highly recommend this. And, although this technically falls under the heading of YA, don’t let that stop you. Some of the perspectives are told from the adults in the story, so I can see this having wide appeal for teens and adults. Now who do I talk to about making this into a movie?