Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: Thriller / Science Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
I've had a repeating nightmare in the past, where I'm walking down a long hallway, and no matter what door I open, I know there is no way out without even stepping through one of them. I'm sure everyone's had some sort of variation of that dream at some point.
That's how it felt to read The God Game, with all of the anxiety and desperation of that nightmare.
As the story began to unfold at the beginning, the setting and characters and plot felt a bit juvenile. And that might have been on purpose. It's such a silly game at first, almost playful. Because, really, how can something like this be real. It does stretch the limits of not only imagination but reality—far too much at times—but that's also what makes you think “How is no one able to stop this??? How can something like this go so far???” And really, how much of this is even believable? But the more that the story progresses, the more that juvenile quality begins to fade away as things become darker.
The fact that this is all centered around a group of high school students is almost too perfect. High school, where life is not the easiest for many of those who attend, already filled with its lot of cruelty and issues, makes the “game” start off as a salvation—as advertised—only to wrap its claws around the players and sink them deeper to the bottom. It's very predictable, but it does the job very well.
The more I read, the more I started to feel a horrible, creeping dread while events escalated. It's perfect, that sensation. That's the story nicely seeping into us the reader, doing a hell of a job with its craft and the torment of its characters. And despite this, the novel is just plain fun to read. It drags ever so slightly at the beginning, there yet barely noticeable. But once it picks up speed, everything careens toward its inevitable conclusion and you cannot help but want to be along for the ride.
I wouldn't say that finding out the main culprit among the group of friends was surprising. The clues were there all along. The reveal, however, was still satisfactory, even if the character's staged death played a little weakly at the closing. That door left open, letting you see that, oh, you thought it was over but no no no, it will continue. I think a finite conclusion would have played out better, but if anybody wants to imagine how things will keep progressing then imagination now has food for thought.