Artificial Intelligence both terrifies and intrigues me. And while I don’t always love AI books, I usually pick them up anyway. So I was definitely intrigued by The God Game, which has an AI who believes it is God. Because what’s scarier than an omniscient computer who thinks it’s also omnipotent?
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
You are invited!
Come inside and play with G.O.D.
Bring your friends!
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 a young-adult sci-fi thriller, which is not something I would normally pick up, but I was definitely intrigued by the AI element in this novel. Think about how much technology we use on a daily basis. You’re most likely reading this review on a device that could likely affect your life if someone were to hack it or use it to spy on you. Now imagine if there was an AI out there spying on everyone, hacking anything connected to the internet – phones, computers, security systems, cars – and thought it was God. That it had the power to decide who lives or dies. If that idea doesn’t scare you, it will after you read The God Game.
I really enjoyed this book. It was thrilling and interesting. Personally, I like technology elements in books, so I didn’t mind all of the science and coding (even though I didn’t understand any of it). I really liked how the AI God was based on world religions – I thought that was pretty clever. I love when philosophy is discussed in books, and I think it was used well here.
The characters themselves were interesting. I liked the diversity of the main group of friends (although I wish there was more outside of the group). However, I did think that a lot of the characters’ ages didn’t seem totally believable. A lot of the issues these kids deal with just seemed incongruous with their ages. And even the adults sometimes acted younger than they later turned out to be. It’s not a huge issue, but it was a bit distracting.
I enjoyed Danny Tobey’s writing for the most part. It fit the story well. The pace was thrilling – especially towards the end of the book, I had a hard time putting it down. The ending was a little bit unsatisfying – the last chapter in particular felt a little bit out of place with the rest of the book – but I guess that’s up to you to decide.
★★★★☆ – I enjoyed The God Game. It was a fun thriller with a great AI element (imagine Aiden from Illuminae). If it sounds interesting to you, I would definitely recommend checking it out.
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This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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