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Game Control

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  687 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
Eleanor Merritt, a do-gooding American family-planning worker, was drawn to Kenya to improve the lot of the poor. Unnervingly, she finds herself falling in love with the beguiling Calvin Piper despite, or perhaps because of, his misanthropic theories about population control and the future of the human race. Surely, Calvin whispers seductively in Eleanor's ear, if the poor ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1994)
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Leo Robertson
Oct 02, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh dear oh dear!

This reads like the first novel of a 21 y/o former teen bully who thinks that the fact she went on a gap year to Kenya is so interesting it supersedes the requirements of other novels, namely a plot, anyone to root for, decent research or non-laziness in general.

Almost all Shriver novels suffer in the above departments, it’s worth pointing out. In order to scour her books for her insights and hard truths that you know but that no one will say, delivering relief and kinship, you h
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion this is not the best of Lionel Shriver's novels. The story is inventive but the it is difficult to warm to any of the characters or care about their fate. The basic premise of the novel and the theoretical underpinnng of the politics of population control is interesting but it is difficult to invest emotionally with the characters.
Hannah Wingfield
Lionel Shriver is one of my favourite authors – We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of my favourite books, and thoughts about So Much For That still linger closely months after I finished it – but sadly this is the first novel of hers that I’ve read and just didn’t like. I pondered over giving it three stars just because Lionel Shriver writes so well, but skilled phrasing alone wasn’t enough to rescue this book – if it wasn’t for that I probably wouldn’t have finished the book at all, and at time ...more
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately this book speaks to me a little too much.
Jayne Charles
I am used to being challenged by Lionel Shriver's books: they are always full of intelligent insight and dense prose. But there is usually a compelling plot driving thing along, and in this particular novel I felt the balance between plot and analysis, however intelligent, had been tipped too far in the wrong direction.

There can't be many novels written entirely about demography so top marks both for originality and research. It got me thinking about a school geography project I did 35 years ag
I truly could not imagine a Margaret Ann writing any of these books, which would be the truth, had Lionel Shriver not legally changed her name. The easily recognizable voice she carries in all her novels has wit, sarcasm, candor, and a dark side a "Margaret Ann" simply could not carry. Alas, we as readers fortunately do not need to worry about that.

To begin with, this novel is about two things, arguably in equal doses. First, the relationship between warm-hearted, Goody Two Shoes, "I am a burden
Kelly (TheWellReadRedhead)
Like many other readers, I was drawn to this book because I was so caught up in Shriver's writing after reading Kevin. However, this book is different in so many ways. The premise is interesting--population control experts create a grisly method of bringing down worldwide population numbers. Morality becomes relative, etc. etc. That's what made me pick it up in the first place.

Where I got lost was in the extreme research detail that Shriver uses at times. I was listening to the audiobook, and I
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Game Control is the fifth novel by American author, Lionel Shriver. This novel is set in Kenya in the early 1990s and concerns demographics and AIDs. The main characters are a vengeful misanthrope, Calvin Piper, and a guilty do-gooder, Eleanor Merritt. Eleanor works for a Family Planning agency and encounters the charismatic Piper at various Aid conferences. Despite his provocative and controversial opinions about population control (eg allow infant mortality to increase by stopping vaccination) ...more
Jun 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I've discovered that Lionel Shriver has a knack for picking out topics that I find interesting, and twisting them into amazing novels that I love and hate at the same time.

In her novel, "Game Control," Shriver's lead characters are a thirty-eight-year old woman who works with a family planning organization in Africa and a disgraced researcher of population control who is plotting ways to drastically alter the steep incline of growth in the Third World. The material presented is dense, with Shri
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A bit disappointing -- I keep trying to get through everything that Lionel Shriver has written, but apart from We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post Birthday World (both of which I adored), I've been slightly let down. This book (similar to So Much For That) ended up being a diatribe. I felt like I was reading (or talking to) a political activist/extremist for most of it. I found myself just wishing that the preaching would stop. Repetitive? Um, yes. When she finally decided to wrap it up, sh ...more
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-booklist
Eleanor Merritt is a family planning worker in Kenya, who falls in love with Calvin Piper, an intellectual and scientist with some controversial ideas about population control in the poor. The book is clearly well researched, examining the pros and cons of family planning, population control and the AIDS epidemic. Shriver manages to make an interesting storyline out of it - the love story is fortunately the backdrop for the majority of the book, rather than the foreground. Would have scored high ...more
B the BookAddict
I think if this book had not been written by Lionel Shriver, I would have not continued after the first 50 pages or so. The statistics were really heavy and slow going but I will admit, very scary as well. I did wait patiently for the usual Shriver acerbic wit to appear but it was not really evident at all. A satire??? where an American demographer/population control expert veers off the rails and plots to solve the population problem in a very sinister manner. Shriver did spend 12 months living ...more
The writing is very intelligent, and the topic of global population and its effects (as well as how best to address the issue) is fascinating. But the plot fell apart about halfway through the book, after veering off into fantastical territory. I wasn't really sold on the characters, and didn't care much what happened to them in the end.

However, if you're reading this for a well-researched, incisive, and refreshingly politically incorrect discussion of population control, you won't be disappoint
Tina Siegel
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
God, I love Lionel Shriver! She tackles difficult, uncomfortable subjects honestly and head on and somehow manages to be sympathetic but not sentimental about it. I love how brave she is. I also adore that black, black humour of hers. I did find a few of the characters grating in this one, and the structure wasn't as solid as it could have been. I also found the ending hard to swallow. Otherwise, fantastic. Read it!
Sep 11, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I give up. Just can't do it.

Begging for a book to be over is not the way reading should be.

Shriver's usually great, but this one was painful.
Britta Böhler
(Still) one of my less-favorite Shriver novels. But not because its a bad book (it's not!), I just find the setting and the topic less interesting.
Apr 22, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read it so you don't have to......selfless to the end.
Oct 20, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Would the world — and, specifically, the Third World — be better off if poor people just disappeared?

Lionel Shriver, a North Carolina-born woman living in London, presents a grimly amusing, though-provoking, seriously frightening look at population control, AIDS in Africa, and wildly contradictory research centering around a man named Calvin Piper — who wants to kill two billion people (all over the social and political map) for the benefit of humanity — and the female family-planning worker, El
Do you enjoy long dialogue consisting of meticulously researched data on demography? Do you like it when dead people suddenly come alive, or do you believe in ghosts? How about complex relationships? If so, this book may be for you.

I am nearly through with this and I can say that I have mixed feelings. I love Lionel Shriver and will give anything she writes a go. I think I have Hallie to blame for this fixation, as she got me started with The Post-Birthday World, which is deeply affecting. I ca
May 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to this book because I have really enjoyed a couple other books written by Shriver, namely "Kevin" and "Big Brother". But this story is a bit different and more of a slog to get through. The premise is population control which is an interesting topic.

Eleanor Merrit, an American working in Kenya as a family planner, sincerely wants to improve the lives of the poor in this country. She gets emotionally involved and attached to Calvin Piper, fellow American who is obsessed with demograp
Lionel Shriver is very good at saying the unsayable and Calvin Piper is the perfect mouthpiece. It is a story of of clashing ideals - save the world or kill the world, with Africa's poverty and post colonial legacy of ineffective government as a backdrop. Calvin Piper proposes significant population control (creating a pandemic to cull the very young & the old) and initially spars (before starting a flawed relationship ) with earnest birth control project worker Eleanor Merritt. Shriver puts ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Looking at past reviews, it seems a lot of readers were disappointed this wasn't another "We need to talk about Kevin". However, what I like best about Shriver is her ability to write about any topic, and that it's not predictable and trite. All her books have made me think, and I like that very much.

This book is based around the concept of overpopulation, and what, if anything should be done about it. I found the characters interesting and entertaining, and although they were on opposite sides
May 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you read this as a normal novel, in which the characters act as real humans might, you're gonna have a bad time. You may be put off by the stupidity of Eleanor because Calvin Piper, as a romantic interest, has more red flags than China. You will read it wondering, How lonely would a person have to be, how low a self-esteem would she need to have, to seek his love?

If you read this book, please read it as a Socratic dialogue. None of these characters are meant to be three-dimensional people. Th
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fascinating book by one of my very favorite authors, Lionel Shriver. All of her books explore the relationships between men and women, and typically have strong female characters. Yet all of her books also explore larger social issues. This novel, written quite a while ago, was only recently published in the U.S. (in 2007, I believe) because her publisher rejected it. The larger social issues it addresses -- population control and genocide -- are probably why her publisher didn't want to ...more
Sep 10, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The characters in this novel were deplorable. I thought I would relate to the main character- after all, she's an American family planning worker in East Africa, how could I not? However, she proved naive and idiotic, and did not grow through the novel. She was unbelievable, as was the arc of her nemesis-love interest. The denouement was utterly unconvincing.

This book was written in 1994, before family planning was firmly situated within a human rights framework and before HIV was transformed f
The first three chapters are really difficult to read. Firstly the topic is a difficult one to read about and secondly because her sentence construction is laborious. For example on page 36: "Quickly a bowl of pinto beans and corn kernels were delivered with tea, and Peter's mother asked if she would please stay for a meal, the preparations for which, the daughters scurrying, were already under way." After a while I got really irritated by ubiquitous use of commas where shorter sentences would w ...more
Hayley Gullen
This was an intriguing concept for a book, and it engaged me, made me laugh and, mostly, was a page-turner. I really, really like Lionel Shriver, but sometimes I think she is slightly too clever. The dialogue doesn't feel realistic, even though the characters are highly educated, and the sentences are often long and verbose (this wasn't helped by the fact that the version I read was appallingly edited and riddled with typos). It's a funny book in places and I think it could be even funnier if it ...more
This was OK. I admire Shriver's ability to pull the reader into a specialised world, which she did well in this book as in Double Fault. The basic premise of this book was good and it raised some interesting questions about population/demography and motivations for working in the aid industry (if I can call it that) but for me, the characters didn't feel quite real. They almost felt like caricatures and I couldn't connect with them or their relationship. It wasn't bad in my opinion, just not gre ...more
Kim Yates
The premise of the book was interesting, and it seemed well-researched - I know aid workers can get jaded and cynical and that there are people who promote the theories in the book that seem so grim. I just couldn't stand the main characters - sign of a good writer I know, but I just got impatient with them about half way through and skipped to the end. Can't really give 3 stars to something I couldn't finish.
Hazel McHaffie
Oct 18, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Having disliked 'Double Fault' I felt I really out to give Lionel Shriver another chance. Surely someone who could create 'We Need to Talk about Kevin', had to be able to reel me in again. It's about population control and AIDS in Africa and I've just returned from North Africa so the timing was perfect. Sadly I struggled the whole way through this one. Only my obsessive need to complete a book once I've started kept me going. I'm not surprised that most of the hardback run was pulped.
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Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism h ...more
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“Cynics are spoiled romantics. They are always the ones who had the highest expectations at the start. They were once so naïve themselves that they despise naïvety more than any other quality. Alchemists, they turn grief to gold. They take quinine in their tonic, Campari with their soda—bitterness is an acquired taste. Cynics have learned to drink poison and like it. They are resourceful people, though the sad thing is, they know what’s happened to them. They remember what they wanted to be when they grew up, and not a single one of them dreamt of becoming a cynic.” 4 likes
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