I picked up The Game by Terry Schott off of Book Bub for free and expected it to be…well…awful because I’ve had a rough streak of free books, but I was pleasantly surprised instead. The Game is about a world (Tygon) where they send children and teens in a virtual reality simulation where the objective is to live long, happy and productive lives set on another planet (sounds boring but it’s trickier than it seems and there are “other” players in the game that work against the teens). The Game has essentially taken the place of education; children learn how to live based upon what they do in the game itself. In essence, the game is life. Before going into the game, the players decide how they are going to use their credits to maximize their ability to succeed in the world. Some children have more credits, more sponsors and more advantages going into the game than others (hmmm, that sounds familiar) while others with lesser credits attempt to bulk up on health or skills in the hopes that they can survive. Players are internationally ranked and everything on Tygon is now connected/dependent on The Game. It has become a part of Tygon’s culture, it’s a source of revenue and there are implied ulterior motives on the part of the Game’s creator, Brandon Strayne.
Brandon Strayne is secretly sponsoring the #2 ranked teen in the world( Zach), in the 30th anniversary of the Game. Zach is coming out of a hugely successful run in the simulation. He has the opportunity to retire in one of the top spots or go back in one more time before he turns 18 where he will no longer be able to compete in the game. How he fairs in the simulation will dictate how he will live out his life on Tygon. If he finishes well, he will live a life of privilege and wealth. However, if he fails, he will lose everything. Zach chooses to go in one more time. He is determined to be the #1 ranked player in the world and will use all of his credits (in a bold move) to achieve this goal. He’s hoping to find his girlfriend Alexandria back in the game, whom he was unable to find on Tygon when he most recently came out of stasis. Adding another interesting layer is that the sentient computer known as Sylvia, that runs the simulations has revealed herself to Zach and begins communicating with him. What will he do with the insider knowledge that Sylvia provides? Why is she communicating with him? Will the communication give him an advantage? You’ll have to read the book to see if those questions get answered (I totally just pulled a Reading Rainbow on ya, right there!).
Rereading all that, it sounds kind of dumb and I’ll admit there are some parts that I kind of sighed through because it was a little heavy handed on the theme “living clean because you only have one life” unlike these kids who get to improve via simulation. Yes! it’s a very wise way of looking at things but I’m not wise and so I rolled my eyes and grabbed a beer while reading that section. This is the first book in a four book series and this book spends a very large portion of time world building. The author believes that this could work as a standalone, however, there’s a major cliffhanger with only a shred of resolution so I humbly disagree with his on that point (they do get resolved quickly in book 2). The main characters get basic development but you don’t get a true sense of who they are and what they are actually doing until the following book…I was ok with that, I enjoyed what I was reading and it kept me captivated. I’ve yet to read the last book but as I continued through the series I grew more and more impressed with the characters, worlds and ideas that Terry Schott has created and is exploring. As of right now, the book about the simulation’s creator (Brandon), is by far the most captivating (book 3).
Caveat: Make sure that you get the edited version of Schott’s books. There are numerous complaints on Amazon about the free book having numerous grammatical and syntax errors. I believe this has been fixed. Interestingly enough, the author comments quite often on Amazon and fixes problems that he sees his readers complaining about (for example, the book order made it seem like book #3 was a standalone, when in fact, it is integral to the series. He made sure to have that changed). Also, I suggest that you don’t read any reviews on Amazon because while I think it’s fairly obvious what the major spoiler may be, some outline it heavily.