Even though they are often mindless stories, I do have a strange attraction to thrillers. Even when they require very little thought, they can still provide a simple diversion from the real world and sometimes that is exactly what I need. Other times, the thriller can be smart and thought provoking. Either way, I enjoy them all. I started “Game” by Anders de la Motte with almost no idea of what the story was about but hoping that it would prove to be at least entertaining and maybe thought provoking as well.
Henrick “HP” Petterson is a loser. His life is on a dead end road and he barely scrapes by enough to eat and smoke some weed through a string of petty crimes. When he is riding a train home after a weekend of partying, he finds a cell phone and is asked a fateful question: “Want to play a game?” When he selects “yes,” he is prompted to take an umbrella from a man and he is launched into a world of intrigue as he receives more missions that become progressively more daring as he tries to climb the rankings of the game. Through the fame he receives on the internet and the monetary rewards for successful missions, Henrick thinks that he has it made.
The fun comes to an end when one of Henrick’s missions leads him to injure his police officer sister. When confronted with this fact by the police, he breaks the first rule of the game by talking about the game with someone outside of the game. Now he has become a pariah desperate to get back into the good graces of the game master. As he struggles to learn more about the game and take actions that will either hurt the game or impress the game master enough to let him rejoin, the conspiracy grows deeper and he is left to wonder if the game has really been playing him all along.
So what does “Game,” the first in a trilogy, have in store for the reader? “Game” is a fairly smart and entertaining thriller. While I thought that what was happening, the underlying motives of the game, were fairly obvious, the author still kept the story moving right along and the action rolling. This book is full of action with almost never a dull moment. Henrick is thrust from one event to the next so that there is little time for introspection and reflection by the characters or the reader before the next stage of the story starts. In that respect, de la Motte achieves the main goal of a thriller by thrusting the reader along the path of the story and keeping the entertainment level ratcheted up to the highest possible level.
“Game” has a very strong premise and could be a great thriller rather than just the good one it is but it is held back by a couple things. One is that the reasoning behind the game is too simple and is easy for the reader to figure out. This turned down the “smartness” factor for me and held the story back. I was also bothered a little bit by the fact that many of the pop culture references in the book are dated. This may be due to cultural differences or something that came in the translation but I found it a little distracting that the pop culture references were all somewhat old. Lastly, I did not think that the characters in the story were fleshed out and sympathetic. The only characters that I found myself really relating too, Mange and Henrick’s sister, were too often relegated to the background of the story even though they were in important roles. In fact, the whole backstory between Henrick and his sister was brought up several times but just did not seem too important to the flow of the story. This left me entertained by the novel but still feeling as if it should be more than it was.
Still, when it is all said and done, “Game” was an entertaining read and one that I would recommend for thriller fans. Since this is the first book of a trilogy, there is definitely more to follow and I hope that the next book is not only as good as “Game” but that it can take a step forward and be an even better novel.
I would like to give a special thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for this review copy. “Game” by Anders de la Motte is now available.