"Smart, propulsive and gripping, THE GOD GAME is an ambitious thriller and a terrifying examination of what could--and probably already is--happening in the world of artificial intelligence."—Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Run Away
A technological thriller with an all-too-believable premise, award-winning author Danny Tobey's The God Game follows five teenagers obsessed with an online video game that connects them to their worst impulses and most dangerous desires.
They call themselves the Vindicators. Targeted by bullies and pressured by parents, these geeks and gamers rule the computer lab at Turner High School. Wealthy bad boy Peter makes and breaks rules. Vanhi is a punk bassist at odds with her heritage. Kenny's creativity is stifled by a religious home life. Insecure and temperamental, Alex is an outcast among the outcasts. And Charlie, the leader they all depend on, is reeling from the death of his mother, consumed with reckless fury.
They each receive an invitation to play The God Game. Created by dark-web coders and maintained by underground hackers, the video game is controlled by a mysterious artificial intelligence that believes it is God. Obey the almighty A.I. and be rewarded. Defiance is punished. Through their phone screens and high-tech glasses, Charlie and his friends see and interact with a fantasy world superimposed over reality. The quests they undertake on behalf of "God" seem harmless at first, but soon the tasks have them questioning and sacrificing their own morality.
High school tormentors get their comeuppance. Parents and teachers are exposed as hypocrites. And the Vindicators' behavior becomes more selfish and self-destructive as they compete against one another for prizes each believes will rescue them from their adolescent existence. But everything they do is being recorded. Hooded and masked thugs are stalking and attacking them. "God" threatens to expose their secrets if they attempt to quit the game. And losing the game means losing their lives.
You don't play the Game. The Game plays you....
This grim sophomore novel from Tobey (The Faculty Club) mixes the teen horror and cyber thriller genres for a glimpse of the cruelty that anonymity and the internet make possible. Charlie Lake is one of the founders of the Vindicators, a group of senior geeks at an Austin, Tex., high school who gather in the tech lab and play the occasional harmless prank. Charlie's nihilistic friend, Peter Quine, introduces them to the G.O.D. game, which supposedly amounts to "the sum total of human conceptions about the divine come alive, able to express itself and answer questions and spout new proverbs and instructions." Charlie, Peter, and the three other members of the group each have pressures and secrets in their lives that leave them open to the game's demands. These begin fairly innocuously, but rapidly move to mysterious missions, violent pranks, and betrayals of each other, culminating with the "bargain" of a death for freedom from the game. The heartlessness on display may put off some readers, but fans of AI run amok should relish this one.
A intriguing and entertaining read!
I have never been a "gamer" per se, and the science fiction genre is not one I've delved into very often but a friend was raving about this book so I requested an ARC through Netgalley and gave it a shot.
The concept of this story fascinated me, an AI who thinks it is God? That's a terrifying thought right off the bat. It made me think of Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Charlie and his friends gave me a Nerds meets Stranger Things vibe with them not being very popular in school. But they get invited to play the God Game and at first it's awesome and cool and they are doing tasks that are a little questionable and starts this whole moral dilemma because some people end up getting hurt, but it's their "time" to shine so is it really that bad?
Then things start getting more serious and now they're questioning their consciences and moral upbringing. Maybe they should stop playing the game, the consequences are getting too high. But can they get out of the game?
As I said, I'm not a science fiction reader or gamer, and I am a very visual person so I need to "see" things play out, and sometimes it was hard for me to wrap my head around the things I was reading, and don't get me started on understanding virtual reality. But I was really glued to this story and how it was going to play out. I am a psychology geek so everything the kids go through in the book was really fascinating to me. Their reactions to things happening in their lives and ultimately what it does to their group had me glued to the pages.
Fans of the sci-fi and fantasy genre will really enjoy this story. For me, it was more about the group's friendships and the moral dilemmas they end up facing and how they reacted to all of it. It was a great book for me to read as an introduction to these genres.
Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing me with an advanced review paperback in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.