TPG’s Tasters – The Game, by Terry Schott
TIme for more TPG’s Tasters! Today, I’ll be sampling The Game by Terry Schott, which is the first of a series. This book has received a lot of excellent reviews, and it was one review in particular by Colin Mobey which brought it to my attention. Plus, it’s an indie-published work of SF – an ideal book for me to check out, in other words.
The book is free right now, by the way; for those who are interested, it can be found here .
So, without further ado, the cover:
When I first looked at the cover, I liked it. And then I really looked at it, whereupon I started to like it a lot less. Note the space near the character’s chin and beneath his folded arms, and note also the strange warping around his right leg. Really, this looks like a cover that was done in a hurry, as though it were meant as a mockup rather than the final product. Unfortunately, this is the final product, and so all of us are seeing it.
So…yeah; this looks self-published. That’s my first impression of the book, and it ain’t a good one.
(Incidentally, the paperback cover looks quite a bit better, and the cover on this series’ latest entry is downright gorgeous. Why the ebook cover has been left like this, then, is beyond me. But then, the book seems to be selling well anyway, so perhaps the author just doesn’t feel the need.)
Let’s move onto the blurb, shall we?
The Matrix/ Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games …
What if, instead of traditional schools, children learned by participating in a virtual reality simulation, one that allowed them to experience, “life” from birth to death – multiple times?
What if one player,
on his final play,
could change the world forever…?
Hmm…okay, so I like Ender’s Game and this sounds like a neat concept, so I’m definitely up for reading the free sample. And that’s all I can really say from this blurb. Who’s the character? What’s the conflict? Why does it all matter? I have no idea.
Maybe the sample will help, here!
I went into this particular sample feeling rather unsure. The book had lots of good reviews, sure, and the concept seemed nice, but the overall package had thus far felt less than polished. The first couple of pages, then, would make or break this book for me.
The book opens in an intriguing way, with our protagonist having seemingly just died after a long and happy life:
He woke up in a white room.
The walls, ceiling, floor, lights…everything was white.
“Am I dead”, he asked out loud. His voice was different…more like 16 and 74…”Ah, crap, I am dead”
“Kind of,” a voice said. “But not quite.”
Turning his head towards the voice, he saw a kid, around 18 years old, with a friendly smile on his face.
“Welcome back, stranger! You had an incredible run that time! Glad to see you back safe and sound.”
This young man soon brings the protagonist (and the reader) up to speed: the protagonist’s name is Zack, and he has just woken up from a particularly successful run though “The Game”. It soon transpires that Zack has had many such successful runs, giving him a celebrity status.
It then further transpires that The Game is actually a complete virtual reality simulation, designed to effectively replace the school system; how well you do in The Game directly determines your level of wealth when you turn 18, making a good ranking very important for one’s future.
This, by the way, takes three chapters to go through. And therein lies the problem: there is nothing happening here. Those are three very short chapters, yes, but they are three chapters nonetheless in which very little of note takes place, and in which I still only have the raw concept to keep my interest.
By chapter 4, the exposition was showing no signs of slowing down, and I got about a page or so in before I encountered…this:
This paragraph, I daresay, was the death blow for this particular read-through. Again: the concept sounds interesting, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything here besides reams upon reams of exposition. I just…I’m really not seeing it. At all.
I skimmed the rest of the sample. A plot thread is introduced by the end of chapter four, with Zack planning on one last all-or-nothing play for the number one rank. And after that…the exposition continues, with chapter 5 serving mainly to give us more details about The Game. Things properly got moving in chapter 7, with the introduction of a down-and-out ex-gamer, but by then I had long since had enough.
Most of the online reviews, by the way, mention that the book does get much better over time. They also mention, though, that book ends on a cliffhanger – something I personally dislike. So all things considered…
Did I download it?
No. Maybe it gets better later on – heck, from all the reviews, I’m sure it does – but I’m simply not feeling hooked from what I’ve read. Like I said, it just doesn’t seem to be for me.
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