The God Game by Danny Tobey
Published January 9th 2019 by Gollancz
“So said God, or at least the first artifical intelligence bot claiming to inhabit the persona of God.”
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, smouldering 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.
Towards the end of last year, the Stevie from Gollancz offered two ARCS out to people chosen at random and then each of those got to choose another person each to receive the same arc. I missed out on the first try but then the lovely Rebecca from ReviewsFeed chose me to receive a copy of The God Game with her! I finally managed to get around to reading it this month and I have been absolutely hooked the past few days. It sounded like it was a mix between Ready Player One and the more recently released Ctrl +S both of which I enjoyed immensely so I was fairly confident I would enjoy this and let me tell you if you enjoyed either of the books I’ve mentioned you will love this. I will say though that The God Game has a lot more sinister of a plotline than Ready Player One and there isn’t that 80’s nostalgia high to add to it (unless you count the War Games feel to parts of it) but it shines in its own completely different way and I’m so very here for it.
I’d also like to add there are definitely some content/trigger warnings some should be aware of, such as suicide and suicidal thoughts, bullying and minor drug use (I think I’ve covered them all but if I’ve missed any let me know and I’ll make sure to add them to my review.).
To begin with, I sighed at the seemingly stereotypical set up in The God Game, the group of “nerdy” boys with the “token” girl that one of them is probably in love with and that stereotype is definitely here to a degree but in a way that is done really well. It’s not over the top or in your face and is barely mentioned but when it is it is done so to an organic way that’s hard to explain without spoilers so I won’t say any more but just wanted to give a heads up to those who might pick it up, read the first page or two and put it down because of that very overdone trope in these kind of books. This book is more than what it seems to begin with I promise. It’s fast-paced, well interconnected, full of tension and it keeps you guessing at every turn.
So we start with these stereotypical characters and over the course of the story we inevitably get to know them better, they each have hopes and dreams, even if some of their aspirations aren’t obvious even to them, o begin with. The character progression is interesting in this because we are naturally treated to more information about each of them as the story progresses and this is done very well, facts and histories are organically placed in the story and the progression to a degree is very much just seeing what was there in the first place but hidden, sometimes on purpose and sometimes not even known to the character. I found the whole process fascinating and the mortality and choices characters are faced with in this book feels very close to home in that they are easily decisions that feel visceral and real. The story itself is obviously interesting and I’ll get to that next but for me, it’s absolutely the characters, their choices and actions that make the God Game.
The plot for The God Game is not a new one but it is a good one. The idea of an A.I with a warped sense of perceived morality is something we’ve seen before in tv shows, films, books and video games and is an interesting concept because of the different takes on it and as with a fair amount of science fiction thrillers, the ease with which it can be imagined. It makes sense and true A.I’s feels like a step that the human race will eventually make or at least be able to and that brings so much more into the discussion although there’s not much of that in this book as our main characters are more worried about the consequences a bit closer to home than whether it should have been created or not although we get a little bit of background on “G.O.D” that is both interesting and vague enough to perhaps be a kind of urban myth itself.
I could honestly go on about this book for ages, it was really thought-provoking in a lot of ways that I’m still thinking about almost a week after finishing it and that I think will stay with me for some time to come.