Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The God Game by Danny Tobey

Charlie, Kenny, Peter, Alex, and Vanhi. They call themselves The Vindicators. Outsiders who have found common ground and friendship in one another, they spend their time in their school's unused tech lab, planning fairly harmless pranks. But when they're invited to play The God Game, everything changes. 

It's fun at first, even if their tasks within the game are...questionable, to say the least. But the game allows them a freedom they've never experienced. It's something secret. Something just for them. Something that soon lets them explore sides of themselves they never knew they had. 

But what starts out as fun soon becomes a darker competition. GOLDZ are good. BLAXX are bad. Really bad. As the group is drawn deeper and deeper into the game, they each begin to question the game's purpose and their purpose within the game. And as they soon learn, while starting only requires and invite, leaving the game requires something much more sinister. 

A book in the vein of Black Mirror, what more could I ask for? Well, Danny Tobey specializes in AI, and while I enjoyed this book, I am not. As a result the story went over my head more than just a little bit in some places.

Charlie and his friends aren't part of any clique and so they've made one themselves. They bond over coding and computer games, in spite of their differences. Charlie recently lost his mother to cancer and his grades show it. Vanhi hopes to get into Harvard, but pulling a D isn't going to cut it. Alex struggles academically and suffers at his father's hands for it. Kenny wants to fit in but knows he never will. And Peter, well Peter is the bad boy of the group and ultimately the one who introduces them all to the game.

Angsty teens finding an outlet isn't new. And neither is the idea that they'd get wrapped up in a dangerous online game. I liked the morality questions that came into play here and the fact that everything and everyone is gray, gray, gray rather than black or white.

But I wanted more. The group is fairly well rounded, but Charlie gets most of the focus for sure. Kenny probably gets the least attention, which is kind of a shame as I felt like I really didn't understand his motivation for the most part. But there are other players as well and, with one single exception, we don't know anything about any of them. They appear and disappear without any kind of glimpse into their stories.

Some can argue that the core group is all we need: they each illustrate various motivations in playing the game and following its instructions. But I guess given how dark the book gets, I like to believe it would take pretty extraordinary circumstances for people to do some of the things that are done in the game.

Ha! I just realized my complaint is that the book doesn't adequately support my own hope that people are ultimately good...

My other issue with the book is that it's never clear to me exactly what the game is. At times it seems like Tobey makes the case for it being connected to events that happen a decade before the book takes place. It also seems the game is supposed to be artificial intelligence, but there's never any kind of information about its creator. And while I'm ok with some things left unexplained, I felt like my inability to truly grasp some of the intricacies of the game itself were wrapped up in my need to know more about it as a whole.

All in all, The God Game is inarguably a book that will make you think. And while I didn't fall head over heels for it, I did enjoy the read.

1 comment:

Tammy Sparks said...

I had a lot of fun with this book, but I agree, I had a lot of questions at the end as well.