Thank you so much to St Martin’s Press for the ARC of The God Game by Danny Tobey! This is a technological thriller with mythological and sci fi elements, read on to find out why I’m recommending this book!
Synopsis from GoodReads:
You are invited! Come inside and play with G.O.D. Bring your friends! It’s fun! 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 th 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?
If cool rainbow-reflective lettering on the cover wasn’t enough, this book was completely addictive as well. The premise is that a group of five high school friends (but is this really a YA book? I think all ages will enjoy this with no problem) stumble upon a chatbot that claims to be G.O.D. This moral experiment has tons of players all over the world and attempts to crowd surf morality.
All five students have their own secrets and family issues. At this point they are trying to get into college, or just survive. The game puts each teenager against them self, each other, and the community, causing them to make choices and understand that each action has a consequence.
I think these are important topics for teens to read about. Themes about lying, bullying, suicide, child abuse, religion, and taking responsibility for your actions are all included in the book. Some are discussed thoughtfully and others less so. My favorite part was seeing how each teen reacted once they learned that their choices, actions, and decisions all had very potentially harmful flip sides for someone else.
“Donald Trump is a shape shifting lizard”
The other part I enjoyed was the humor! Isn’t it great that we live in a country where we can publish “Donald Trump is a shape-shifting lizard?” I did something similar to that to George Bush and it was made clear to me by the teacher that I should be thankful I didn’t live in a country where I could be imprisoned or worse for writing bad presidential poetry. Just saying. That part had me absolutely rolling though, but then The God Game got more intense and progressively darker to the point where I wasn’t laughing anymore.
I also enjoyed that progressive descent into ruin. It made the book so hard to put down. The end got a little bit convoluted and murky which is why I dropped the rating to four stars. The other part that threw me was some of the talk about code, I don’t know anything about coding and although it didn’t throw me off too hard – I just had no idea what they were talking about during those passages. The hacking parts were still interesting.
I thought after they had been though that the characters deserved a nice wrapped up ending after the game answered it’s biggest question of morality…. but that’s not how G.O.D. works.
The book releases on January 7th, 2020, mark your calendar if The God Game sounds up your alley!