The God Game by Danny Tobey

Posted On 9 January 2020

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TheGodGameThe short version of this review is that I really enjoyed The God Game. It was fast paced, a little bit crazy in parts, quite scary in others, totally addictive, in fact virtually unputdownable and it took me completely by surprise because whilst I liked the blurb for the book the combination of high school, geeky nerd squad and insidious AI just really wowed me.

So.  The game revolves primarily around five characters who call themselves the Vindicators.  They’re all slightly (okay very) geeky and their little club like to pull silly stunts, nothing too over the top and certainly nothing dangerous or that will threaten their future prospects in terms of college prospects and the like.  The main character is Charlie and the rest of the club are Peter, Vanhi, Alex and Kenny.  In fact, thinking about it now the characters are really what makes this read for me.  They’re good friends but at the same time they all have secrets that are starting to see that friendship splinter slightly.  There are small jealousies and insecurities and it’s these elements that are very much played on to propel the story forward.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Basically, the five become involved in a game known as G.O.D.  This is a game that promises great rewards.  All their dreams could come true.  Of course – the COULD element of that promise is really the focus in my opinion.  At the end of the day there’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch’ and the group are about to find out how easily they can be sucked into danger and how quickly their friendships will start to fray as they’re pitched against each other.

Like I said, the characters really made this for me.  There are so many secrets and hidden agendas that the five of them are a foregone conclusion for easy manipulation. The game starts off with such promise.  Played through their smartphones the five become hooked almost immediately to what they think of as a harmless game that shows things in a slightly different light, creeping vines and strange creatures inhabit this space and the virtual world that surrounds them is exciting and fun, at first.  Well, having said that, the game is pretty sneaky and this can be seen almost from the get go, it works pretty quickly at splitting the group and giving them individual tasks and before they all know it, they’re deep in its clutches.  This is when things go seriously pear shaped.

In terms of setting, this is a modern setting and easy to visualise, the majority of the story takes place in the high school setting with all the usual shenanigans that this brings.  There are the usual cliques, the beautiful ones, the ones good at sport, the nerds, etc, and the story includes social commentary on various aspects of high school such as bullying, stress, exclusion, relationships involving abuse.  Things are not always what they seem and the author successfully brings other characters into the story with ease.

The characters that make up the Vindicators are a mixed bag.  Charlie seems to be the linchpin of the group.  His mother died a year ago and his school work took a dive as he struggled to cope, particularly with his father suffering to hold things together.  He shared a pact with Vanhi to try for Harvard but that dream seems to have long since broken.  Peter is the mystery element of the club.  Good looking and enigmatic he’s the most recent addition and has already caused a slight change in the hierarchy that hasn’t gone completely unnoticed.  Alex is one member of the group who seems to be really struggling.  He suffers from low self esteem and is constantly second guessing how everyone feels about him which is made worse by his home situation which is far from ideal.  The only character that I got less of an attachment to was Kenny – not because he was unlikable at all but I just didn’t really come away with much strength of feeling for him as a character – but, there are plenty of characters to choose from here so Kenny could certainly be a favourite for other readers even though he didn’t really jump off the page for me.

The only real negative for me was a slight feeling of the game becoming too chaotic in the later stages.  I almost become over soaked if you will.  Things escalated quite quickly and as a reader it felt there was just too much going on – it gave me a feeling of ‘how come the adults are so unaware of what is really going on’ – but then at the same time there is a credibility to this – do parents always know where their children are or what they’re doing?  And, do children always confide in their parents or go to them for help?

Overall however, and slight niggling issue aside, this was a gripping read that kept me hooked.  The pace was great, the characters were flailing around like headless chickens as the game sucked them into it’s machinations and there was a great feeling of rising hysteria.  I thoroughly enjoyed this and have no hesitation in recommending it, there is a definite need to suspend your disbelief a little but then I didn’t find this an issue at all, I read about dragons and dwarves so cunning AI is an easy stretch.  And on top of that the ending is deliciously twisted – but obviously I can’t share that with you.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

I would rate this 4.5 of 5 stars for GRs.