Thursday, December 12, 2019

Review: The God Game by Danny Tobey

The God Game
The God Game by Danny Tobey
St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 7th, 2020
Hardcover. 496 pages

About The God Game:

"You are invited! 
Come inside and play with G.O.D. 
Bring your friends! 
It’s fun! 
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."

The God Game is one of those books that has an utterly fascinating premise, but that struggles a bit with the plot itself, though that's not to say that this wasn't a good book. The God Game is also entirely gripping and hard to put down and I was pretty much hooked from page one until the end.

This book takes the idea of an artificial intelligence-based game and sort of up its to the next level (or a few levels above the next level). The AI behind the God Game has been fed all religious texts from as many different faiths around the world as possible and now thinks that it is god. Thus, the AI 'god' controls--or, "allows"-- its 'followers' to live their lives with a variety of tasks and options given to them by the AI, some of which are more questionable than others. The God Game plays with a lot of explorations of the human mind and with testing what extremes people are capable of when given just the right amount and type of motivation and it does this exceptionally well. It's almost one of those scenarios where you can't bear to look and see what the characters are about to do next because you're pretty sure you know what they're going to choose, but you also can't look away because it's terrible and disastrous.

We follow the perspectives of a few different characters and occasionally follow the POV of a random person here and there as fits the narrative style the author has chosen. I found the varying perspectives critical to making this a fully-fleshed out story with a thorough exploration of the themes it sets out to explore and I liked being able to experience the God Game through the eyes of a wide array of personalities. However, my struggle with the perspectives lies in how short each POV switch was and how quickly it seemed to jump around. I never really had a chance to delve too deeply into any one character for any amount of time and it felt like a bit of a struggle to follow along. The quick POV changes also became a problem because the time jumps were somewhat hard to follow and I wasn't always sure if things were happening simultaneously, if an hour had passed, a day, or what length of time was passing.

Because of how many characters we follow, I won't go into specifics about them since that might take a while and personally I enjoyed getting to know each one individually over the course of the book. I think Tobey did a good job of creating characters that stood out from one another personality-wise. There were only one or two characters who I had a slightly more difficult time remembering than others, but even then it was easy to remind me of who they were and what was going on.

Tobey writes with a wonderfully ominous tone that mixes uncertainty and dread with the sort of mundane day-to-day atmosphere of everyday life. The dread and horror of what is happening with the AI provides a sharp contrast to the everyday struggles of the regular high school teenager combined with some more personal issues that each student is facing. Somehow Tobey weaves all of this together into on tight, compelling novel that makes it impossible to put down at any point.

Overall, I've decided to give The God Game 3.75 stars! I really had a great time reading this one, but the POV switches and occasional pacing/timing issues were a bit distracting at times. Nonetheless, still a compelling read that I would recommend to anyone interested in the premise of an essentially rogue AI (who doesn't love a horrifying rogue AI?).

*I received an ARC of The God Game courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*


  1. I'm glad you liked this, since I have a review copy too. I'm not sure how the huge cast of characters will work for me, I guess we'll see!

  2. Interesting premise! I like the idea of the video game bleeding over into real life, that's kinda creepy!