The God Game
Author: Danny Tobey
To Be Published: January 7, 2020
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: December 18-28, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
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.
We are beginning to get more novels that reflect the way society is heading and The God Game is one of them. The God Game is an Augmented Reality game that you play on your phone, such as Pokémon Go and its predecessor Ingress. I played Ingress for a while and enjoyed it and the beginning of the novel seemed like ‘what if The God Game was Ingress but thought it was real and thought it was actually God???’ That is what interested me in reading The God Game.
Charlie and his small group of friends, The Vindicators, are tech savvy misfits who all have various negative home issues. A lot of the book dealt with coding, which I know nothing about so that all went over my head. The characters are YA but this novel is not. This will be for the older and more mature teens (16+) as the themes and language reflect. There are a handful of anti-Trump references throughout the novel, which shows the teens maturity level. But I have to admit, the first couple of references were entertaining in how they got the game’s attention. ( I don’t really like politics showing up in the novels I read).
Once our group realizes how much the game affects real life and the consequences of playing they begin trying to beat the game. But can you beat the all knowledgeable and all-powerful god? Or at least an AI that believes it is God? There are Bible references throughout as the AI quotes verses.
Tobey did a great job with developing this group of misfits and building his story. I found myself more connected with The Vindicators home issues and wanting to see what would happen there. The last 50-60 pages really moved for me. It definitely picked up and I wanted to see what was going to happen. But the ending and this novel were really just not for me. If you are a gamer, coder, or have more than basic computer knowledge I can see you enjoying this novel more.
**Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an arc to read and review.**