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The God Game

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You are invited!
Come inside and play with G.O.D.
Bring your friends!
It’s fun!
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.

452 pages, Hardcover

First published January 7, 2020

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About the author

Danny Tobey

5 books280 followers
Danny Tobey is the author of THE GOD GAME, arriving January 7, 2020 from St. Martin's press. He is a fifth-generation Texan and a graduate of Harvard College, Yale Law School, and UT Southwestern medical school. Harvard gave Danny the Edward Eager prize "for the best creative writing." He wrote and edited the Harvard Lampoon and was anthologized in The Best of the Harvard Lampoon: 140 Years of American Humor. Danny's first novel, the sci-fi fantasy thriller The Faculty Club, came out from Simon & Schuster. Danny is a noted expert on Artificial Intelligence. In 2019, the Library of Congress gave Danny the Burton Award for his work on AI and the law.

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5 stars
798 (22%)
4 stars
1,358 (38%)
3 stars
992 (27%)
2 stars
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111 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,326 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,066 reviews38.1k followers
July 2, 2020
It wasn’t the best example of the fantasy genre but surprisingly this book hooked me from the beginning, glued to my fingers, captured my mind even it’s quite mash up of Stranger Things concept waltz with some Black Mirror episodes and finally doing Macarena dance with “Ready Player One” and takes a bow after the powerful performance accompanied by “Nerve” (Emma Roberts and brother Franco teamed up for deadly truth or dare concept) There are also some vibes of “Ready Player One” hid inside that you easily catch.

So when you see all those references you want to dive in without thinking. This kind of fast paced, full of action and entertaining books interestingly relaxes my mind and make me feel like I’m a part of team to fight against the obstacles for achieving my goals. It’s better than wasting my time by competing at play station tournaments (I had a husband spent his last weekend with his friends sleepless/ bath-less/ proper food-less on the couch like a statue, only his fingers for moving, eyes glued on the screen, playing Fifa 18! So I know if they read my review about the games, they’ll come after me! I am not afraid of you sleepless, game addict zombies!!!)

Let’s get back to the plot. Story starts with Charlie and his gang’s invitation to play a game with “God”( We don’t know it is a sign of inferiority complex or they are playing games with Morgan Freeman) on the computer. It seems like their God stalking their daily moves and commands them to pull some pranks on students and teachers in exchange cash rewards. But the challenges become compelling, confusing and finally their friendship seems to be broken because the tasks they get start to turn them against each other.

Finally everything gets out of their control. They became jealous, paranoid, and find their loyalties, priorities getting tested.

So this marvelous, entertaining, heart throbbing page turner gave me so much fun and I want more. I felt like I still had some place to taste more sweets of game world.

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press to share this wild and exciting ride /ARC COPY with me in exchange my honest review.

Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
683 reviews4,625 followers
May 13, 2020
5 Black Mirror-esque Vibe Stars for The God Game ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The G.O.D. Game has rules:

Simple right? It all begins in good fun when the Vindicators, a group of teenage gamers/hackers, enter the game. The game is enticing as it blurs the VR world with their real surroundings. Accomplish a mission and receive spoils in the game and in real life. Sounds great, right? It is, until the game's missions turn cruel, sinister and can result in death - both theirs and others.

Is there a way out of the G.O.D. Game? Or does dying in the virtual world really mean death in real life?

So, I'm not a huge sci-fi reader. I read it every now and then BUT this book absolutely had me hooked! It felt more like a thriller as the Vindicators fought for their lives, trying to get out of the game - alive! This was a wild ride with the missions, threats, secrets and repercussions getting crazier and deadlier with every turn of the page.

The characters were well done and their story was solidly fleshed out so that you really come to care for this band of misfit friends and find yourself rooting for them. There were some great underlying themes of friendship, family and loyalty here amidst all the game action and the short chapters really keep you turning the pages. You'll find yourself thinking - just one more chapter - only to realize later that hours have passed and you're almost done with the book.

A huge thank you to Edelweiss, St. Martin's Press and Danny Tobey for providing me with an advance digital copy of this book to read & review.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,034 reviews2,569 followers
May 25, 2020
This question is only for those who enjoy video games :-) What if you could live a video game, life became a video game? Charlie and his tech group, the Vindicators, join The G.O.D. Game that is run by an AI that has been programmed to believe it is God. They wear high tech glasses that change give the real world a creepy and ever changing interface. The game is able to take over their phones, their computers, and they soon learn, every aspect of their lives and the lives of those around them. Nothing is safe from the AI's interference and they are asked or told to do things that they would never do if they didn't feel coerced or blackmailed into doing them. It doesn't take long until some of the group want out but there is no leaving the game without death.

For me, this was a very immersive story and I could feel the desperation, elation, and fear of the group members as the game pitted them against each other, behind the scenes, while encouraging them to work together, on the surface. Bad things happen and more bad things happen and there seems to be no way out of the game, except death, although even that could cause more bad things to happen. I know I'll never join a game like this, with promises too good to be true, risks too great, mysteries as deep as a bottomless pit.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,155 reviews36.2k followers
May 25, 2020
5 Amazing Stars

“The God Game”: Can I just say that My Mind Is BLOWN?!

“The God Game” is a Virtual Video Game that intertwines with Real Life. Take part in the game and do well and you will get rewarded in real life, screw up and you are penalized in real life.

Win and All of Your Dreams Come True. Lose, You Die!

No Joke.

(Not a game I would ever play, though I’m happy to read about it!)

In truth, this is a game of Friendship, Family, Loyalty, Ethics and Morality. It’s simple really, then again, maybe not.

In truth, there is NOTHING simple about “The God Game.” It is brilliant, complex, compelling, entertaining, thrilling and action packed. It's Science Fiction and a Thriller rolled into one and I highly recommend it.

To Danny Tobey: Bravo! What an amazing feat, dude! P.S. Loved the nod to one of the best trilogies of all time (awesome)!

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Danny Tobey for the arc.

Published on Goodreads on 5.24.20.
Profile Image for Sumit RK.
333 reviews443 followers
February 8, 2021
Win and All Your Dreams Come True. Lose, you die!

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 full of runes and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and rewards. But then the threatening messages start, the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. The tasks that seemed harmless at first takes on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes, Shadowy figures start following them and attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

The story primarily follows the Vindicators, a friend group of five nerdy teens brought together by their love of coding and gaming. I loved the idea of this story. A video game consuming a person’s real life, replicating their innermost desires and fears. The premise was really interesting to me and the author did a great job developing the characters and an engaging plot. It’s got plenty of computer and internet references with Lots of AI and virtual reality stuff thrown it. But more than a Sci-Fi, this book is at its core a YA with lots of high school drama and teen relationships. The story was fast-paced and action-packed and there was always something going on that kept the story engaging enough to keep you reading.

The premise was great but the execution felt a bit lacking. For starters, there were too many characters and it felt difficult to keep track of who was who and what was happening with each of them. Also, none of the characters were really engaging despite some good character arcs. I couldn't sympathize with any of them. As a result, the story felt less engaging. Also at around 450 pages, the book felt too long and the plotlines seemed dragged at times. The book is overall entertaining, but I couldn’t really connect to the story or any of its characters.

Overall, I thought THE GOD GAME was a good read. This book though presented as a Sci-fi was primarily a teen thriller. The concept of this book was unique and I felt the virtual reality setting was really interesting. The story was engaging and it was an entertaining read overall.

Many thanks to the publishers St. Martin's Press and Edelweiss for the ARC.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,226 reviews2,934 followers
December 3, 2019
Even though I don't read science fiction very often and don't consider myself a gamer (my Atari/Nintendo/Super Nintendo playing experience in the 80s and 90s doesn't count right?), I actually enjoyed this book. Now, I'm not going to pretend I understood everything the author was going for here but this was a fascinating read for me and is a good example of how I need to branch out of my reading comfort zone every once in awhile.

Charlie and his friends are seniors in high school. They call themselves the "Vindicators" and are not the most popular kids in school. (There's a bit of a Stranger Things type vibe to the group) They get invited to play The God Game, it's some mysterious underground type video game where they communicate with AI who goes by the name, God. It's a high risk, high reward type game. Your real-life wishes could come true, but if you mess up, well, you could wind up dead. Sounds fun, right? Well, maybe at first, but then stuff really starts to get out of control.

I was hooked basically from the beginning as the whole mysterious God thing and what that was all about had me wanting to find out more. What made this a fun read was I truly had no idea what the end game (so to speak) was going to be and what direction the story was going to go in. Charlie is what I would call the main character, but the story does alternate between his friends as well. There are quite a few moral decisions the players are faced with and watching everything play out is crazy because again, everything was so up in the air and unpredictable.

I'm not sure if this is a book for every reader. However, if you read the publisher synopsis and it sounded appealing, I do think you should give this one a try. Despite the fact it is over 400 pages long, it was a quick read as it's fast paced and there's a lot of action going on.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advance copy! I was not obligated to post a review here and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
February 28, 2022

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This book is trying to be Ready Player One meets WarGames, as run by Hal 9000s with the gory morality play mentality of The Purge. The God Game is exactly what it sounds like, an invitation-only e-game that is sent to the unwary. If they play and win, all their dreams come true. But if they die in the game, they die in real life-- and there's only one way to stop playing.

Charlie and his friends are initially super into the God Game. They can play on their monitors or on their phones, and the interplay between reality and the game quickly fascinates them, even if the little "errands" the game sends them on do occasionally cause people to get hurt. It all seems pretty harmless, and as outcasts they feel a little entitled to their pound of virtual flesh.

But when the errands become higher stakes and the pain they cause in the game takes a sharp and drastic incline for the worse, Charlie and co. have to figure out how much of their souls they're willing to sacrifice if it means playing to win, or if there's even a way out of conforming to the hostile intelligence's will at all.

I thought THE GOD GAME was good but cheesy. I think it was a mistake trying to write it as more "realistic" and less speculative science-fiction/fantasy. It gave the book a hokey, 1980s fantasy fulfillment vibe that I don't think will age well as technology continues to improve. The social commentary was interesting but, again, heavy-handed, with a grim, and rather disturbing message that left me in a bit of a funk. I'm not sure what this book was trying to be; I think the author had so many ambitions for his project that he couldn't focus on a single one, and didn't succeed at any of them. THE GOD GAME passed the time and entertained me while I had the flu, but I don't think I'd ever reread it. It was too dark and depressing, and I don't really think it made a whole lot of sense.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!     

3 stars
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,609 reviews5,001 followers
February 6, 2020
It's genuinely such a shame when a book that you anticipated so strongly lets you down, especially when the premise is this great! The plot alone had me thinking The God Game had to be at least halfway successful for me, and in the beginning of the book, I still held strongly to those convictions, but the further into this story I got, the lower I felt my rating dropping.

My first complaint is perhaps my fault (though I don't think so, honestly): I was expecting a more immersive "game" than this. I went into this thinking these characters were going to be thrown into a legitimate game-esque world, and while they do see some things through augmented reality that aren't solidly in the physical realm with them, for the most part, we're left simply following around a bunch of teens as they receive ominous text messages. While I could certainly see how this would work for some readers as it makes it feel more like something that could actually happen, it felt lackluster to me and left me constantly wanting just a little bit more than I was given.

Secondly, in a book this high-risk, where characters are constantly being forced to do awful things and are placed in tough situations, it's hard to feel the weight of those ultimatums when it's impossible to root for anyone involved. The story primarily follows the Vindicators, a friend group of five teens brought together by their loves of coding and their general "outcast" vibes (aside from one, sort of). With these five, plus a slew of side characters we periodically get insight into, it quickly became "too much"; I don't feel that the writing in this story was able to carry such a large cast, so it left everyone feeling a bit one-dimensional and bland. On top of that, you know going into the story that tough decisions will be made, but at their cores, each of these teens just feel so unlikable, whether it's Charlie's cruel interactions with his grieving father, or Alex's sociopathic tendencies, or Peter's conniving, arrogant attitude.

I also think it's worth mentiong that, while I think the author wanted to do something positive by including a variety of characters (Kenny is black, Vanhi is Indian and a lesbian, and Alex is Asian-American), it's not done well. Most notably, Alex's entire family dynamic bothered me. We've all seen examples of the tired, outdated stereotype where Asian characters are held to higher standards by their parents: Alex's father is horribly abusive and every ounce of it revolves around high expectations re: Alex's grades, athleticism, etc. Every POV we're given from Alex's father highlights his background as an immigrant and refugee who "just wants better" for his kid — yeah, yeah, we get it. It feels like it's beaten into the reader's head that all of Alex's father's abusive tendencies come from a place of love, which is bullshit on so many levels, and frankly, the entire depiction of the abusive relationship in and of itself felt weird and unrealistic. There's also some dreadful utilization of the "homophobic bully turns out to be a repressed gay kid" trope, and don't get me wrong, I know that's something that happens in the real world from time to time, but it felt like it was done for cheap shock value and, on top of everything else (and the unapologetic slur usage), I was so unsurprised and over it by the time it rolled around.

There's also the writing to consider, which is the one thing I will say I felt bittersweet about: while I can't say I thought it was very well-done, it was definitely quick-moving and action-packed enough to make the story go by quickly. If it hadn't been for the fact that something is constantly happening and there's no real filler material (which is admittedly an impressive feat for almost 500 pages), I probably wouldn't have even finished it, but it was just engaging enough to keep me reading. Unfortunately, that didn't pay off in the end, between the low overall rating I settled on and the fact that the ending went so thoroughly off the rails that I found myself skimming the last few chapters just to hurry up and be done with the whole thing.

When I started writing this review, I thought I would give The God Game 2 stars because despite all of this, I still think it was a cool premise at its core, but after getting my thoughts out in words, I've realized I really don't have anything good to say about the execution here. I'm sure this book will be beloved by many readers but I am clearly not one of them and don't believe I'll be picking up anything else from this author in the future.

Thank you so much to St. Martin's Press for providing me with this finished copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Profile Image for Nursebookie.
1,945 reviews299 followers
May 26, 2020
The God Game by Danny Tobey

In the G.O.D. game, when you Win, ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE but if you Lose, you DIE.

What a premise to this exciting YA thriller/suspense read where free will and choices in the game have real life consequences. This certainly gave me the Black Mirror vibes in the setting of Ready Player One. I love reading about how people navigate the morality of their actions to gain and advance in life – for every action there is an equal or opposite reaction.

Charlie and his four other friends (Peter, Vanhi, Alex and Kenny) who call themselves “the Vindicators” a group of computer nerds who meet at midnight in the schools’ computer lab, all receive an invitation to play this GOD game. That is where this all begins! When you get rewarded and get GOLDZ points things are great! But careful... if you don’t do what is asked you get BLAXX points and that could mean being hurt or worse!

The excitement starts from the beginning and it only gets crazier and more mind blowing. It really did have me believing the scenarios especially with almost everything being on line now - it’s very hard to stay anonymous. Someone will always know what is happening, always listening, knows what you are doing, knows where you are going... creepy isn’t it? That just gave me goosies!

I found that the writing was solid and the characterization well written - each of the characters equally had an amazing back story and how this GOD game could benefit each one of them. The pacing was amazing and the short chapters propelled the story well.

I loved that the overall theme of the story was about friendship, loyalty and the importance of family. The book did address the issues young adults are facing such as the pressures of excelling in school, the social acceptance of belonging and not being an outcast, peer pressures, drugs and alcohol, pressures of college applications and college acceptance, as well as, sexuality and individuality. I think those were handled well and weaved beautifully within the story.

I highly recommend this book for those looking for an exciting entertaining suspense and thriller read.
Profile Image for Zainab.
360 reviews465 followers
January 9, 2020
You can find this review here

In all honesty, I requested this book mainly because the blurb said that it’s a lot like Stranger Things and they were right!

I wouldn’t call it a complete ‘fantasy’ but there’s some aspects of fantasy in it.

There’s a group of five friends each dealing with their own problems when two of them (Charlie and Peter) discover this “God Game’. At first they don’t think much about it, they think it’s just someone messing with them behind the screen but then it starts sending them messages which are very secretive and very personal.

Things get intense and it starts making them do these dark and different tasks and are forced to do all these things because they are kind of threatened to be killed if they stop playing the game.

In all of this mess, the group falls apart, they start questioning each other and things get very dark.

This was quite a thrilling book, It’s fast paced and it’s a bit of a mix of a lot of movies and books so I think a lot of people will enjoy this.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me an ARC of this book!
Profile Image for Faith.
1,800 reviews479 followers
May 21, 2020
I don’t think that I am the intended audience for this YA book. I am not a gamer and I understand nothing about coding. I skipped over the parts that talked about computer code. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book in which the 5 teenaged protagonists (4 boys, 1 girl) belong to an informal tech group called the Vindicators at their high school. The Vindicators join a game led by an AI chatbot who claims to be God. The game begins to control them by doling out gifts and punishments. They are faced with moral dilemmas and real life consequences are dependent on their choices.

The protagonists face a litany of YA issues: getting into college, how to get the girl, parental death/divorce/neglect/ abuse, bullying and suicide. Each of these issues has a part to play in the game. The book was fast paced and often suspenseful. I thought it got a little messy near the end when one of the characters improbably turned into a one-armed fighting machine, but I liked the twist in the last chapter. I would read more by this author.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Monica.
506 reviews156 followers
March 3, 2020
Solid YA "fantasy"! Similar to Ready Player One except this is set in our current time. I enjoyed the characters and their individual struggles. Although they wanted to be a team, calling themselves The Vindicators, they each had unique problems. I felt this was a fairly unique twist to gaming, alternate reality, visions. The religion and philosophy brought interesting discussion that is not often seen in YA books.

It was close to a 5 star read for me until around the 75% point when things got a little confusing. Overall I do recommend this book, ages 13+ for language. Even for it's length, it's quite the page turner. And the conclusion is fantastic! I would definitely read a sequel.

Many thanks to NetGalley and publishers for the advanced reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,036 reviews1,500 followers
January 8, 2020
The God Game by Danny Tobey is a science fiction thriller that really had an overall horror vibe to it as well with the events getting darker and darker. I’ve seen this one compared to Ready Player One a lot and I suppose I see that in the group of teens playing the online game but minus all the fun pop culture 80s references as that was a lighter read than this one.

Charlie and his friends call themselves the Vindicators and they are seniors in high school but not exactly in on the popular crowd. This group of gamers receive an invite online to come play a game with an AI who is calling himself God. It seems that whoever is behind the game sees what they are doing and as the game goes on the tasks, rewards and punishments get higher and higher.

This story for me was one that hooked me in at the beginning but as time went by I personally thought it began to drag a bit. Being someone that has read a lot of virtual gaming books and also a lot of horror books that have the characters doing “dark” things along the way I kind of had a feeling of I’ve read this one before after a while and got a little edgy waiting to find out how it would all wrap up. I think personally for me if it had been shorter in length I would have enjoyed it more overall.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for posthuman.
64 reviews104 followers
June 7, 2020
The premise of The God Game is deliciously clever. Imagine a brutal, bloody take on Pokemon Go designed by a malevolent and omniscient A.I. who happens to believe it is God. A machine learning algorithm trained on all of history's sacred and philosophical texts. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. And apparently the Lord commandeth a flash mob army of faceless thugs to terrorize a gang of misfit high school students.

The plot is dazzlingly fast-paced with deftly structured, suspenseful scenes. Unfortunately, the characters are straight out of a 1980s teen movie, almost caricatures. I couldn't identify or sympathize with any of them. As a result, the stakes felt low. I didn't care whether the heroes managed to get into Harvard, hook up with the popular girls or discover their parents were crooks and adulterers etc. By the end of the book I would have been fine with all these navel-gazing, whiny protagonists dying in a horrific fire.

I was in high school myself not THAT long ago and these kids felt younger, perhaps junior high students. The tone feels off, wavering between a very special sitcom episode about youth problems and an ultraviolent thriller. The author's style and voice seem intended for young adult or MG audience, but the content begs for a darker, grotesque tone. This story is the perfect fit for a completely off the rails slasher/thriller film adaptation for mature audiences, something in the vein of The Strangers, The Purge, The Game etc.

I can't praise enough Danny Tobey's command of pacing and teasing out the tension and suspense in every scene. The ending is also clever, although I hoped for something truly mind-blowing.

The scenes are well-written in a way which engages the reader's interest in the immediate goals of the protagonists, but the interior lives of these characters are empty tropes. What's needed is a bit of the grit and complexity of the flawed heroes you tend to remember long after finishing a novel. Many of the important story decisions were not believable and ultimately I found it difficult to root for any of these kids to succeed. At times I was even cheering on the AI, the most interesting character in the book.

This is a highly proficient thriller in its tension and pacing, which was almost enough to compensate for the unlikeable and unbelievable lead characters. I do look forward to the author's next book.

Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press / Macmillan for providing advance review copy.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,844 reviews470 followers
January 2, 2020
What a wickedly strange, mesmerizing story!

Charlie is a high school senior. When he and his friends get invited to play in an exclusive underground video game called G.O.D. Game, they find it exciting, addictive and exhilarating. They can win gadgets & tech, cash and other cool prizes in real life. But there is a cost.... Players can win cool stuff if they succeed in the game. But, failure can be dangerous. When the game messages become threatening, Charlie and his friends discover that playing the G.O.D. Game can have bad consequences.

I'm a big fan of Stranger Things and Sci-Fi game related stories like Ready Player One. So, this story is perfect for me. I really enjoyed this book! The kids get sucked into this game, its culture, the exhilaration of being "special'' enough to be invited, and the thrill of winning real world prizes.....but when they get the full picture, the consequences are just plain scary.

Great read! I binged this one starting on Christmas Eve and just couldn't put it down!

This is the first book I've read by this author. I'm definitely going to read more!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St. Martin's Press. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
1,985 reviews2,584 followers
January 16, 2020
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/01/16/...

Some books simply deserve five stars because of how thoroughly and overwhelmingly it hooked me. The God Game by Danny Tobey was definitely one of these, a novel which first captured my attention because of its augmented-reality gaming angle, but soon I found myself completely wrapped up in its other aspects as I ravenously devoured its pages.

Although the story largely follows a group of five gifted teenagers at a Texas high school, The God Game is a mature thriller heavily influenced by the likes of Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and the works of Stephen King. The characters are generally seen as outcasts, gifted kids who don’t really fit into any of the other social cliques, so they formed their own. Calling themselves the Vindicators, they began as a group of overachieving geeks who met frequently in the school computer lab, bonding over a love of video games and coding.

But as the teens entered their senior year, much has changed in the recent past to alter the group dynamic. Charlie, who used to be a top student, saw his life and grades spiral out of control after he lost his mother to cancer. His close friend Vanhi, whose family immigrated to the United States from India to seek a better life, has her sights set on Harvard, though one lousy grade in AP History may have just put an end to those dreams. Then there’s quiet and unassuming Kenny, an aspiring journalist who is caught up in his own troubles at home and rivalries at the student newspaper at school. Next is Alex, whose strict Asian upbringing places high expectations on education. Unfortunately though, he’s been struggling in math and every time he brings home a failing test his father beats him black and blue. And finally, there’s Peter, the charming and popular rich kid who everyone likes. He can flit from group to group, rubbing elbows with jocks and geeks alike, though secretly, the other Vindicators take some pride in the fact that out of all the social cliques on campus, Peter has chosen them.

Then one day, Peter introduces his Vindicator friends to a big secret—the G.O.D. game, an old-school style text-based program he claims is run by an A.I. chat bot that believes it is God. Once you accept the invitation to play, he explains, the game will issue instructions. Good actions by the player will earn them “Goldz” currency, used to buy perks like special privileges and rewards, while disobedience will result in “Blaxx”, demerit points that can lead to bodily harm and even death. If you win though, the A.I. promises to make all your dreams come true. Intrigued by the idea, and believing it to be just a harmless game, Charlie, Alex, Vanhi and Kenny decide to play. At first, the teens are awed by the augmented reality technology, especially once they earn special glasses so that they can be connected to the game world at all times. However, what started as a handful of innocent instructions from G.O.D. rapidly begins escalating into more dangerous, malicious, and underhanded attacks on others, including their fellow Vindicators.

The issue of moral choice plays a huge role in The God Game. Although the characters are in their late teens, their ambitions are wholly relatable, sometimes gut-wrenchingly so. After all, whether you’re a senior in high school or an adult in the workplace, deep down all human beings need and want more or less the same things: to achieve their goals and to succeed, to love and be loved in return, to gain affirmation and be accepted. What makes the game in the book so sinister is the way it feeds on the Vindicators’ worst fears while dangling their deepest desires in front of them as bait. In this way, even the brightest, most mild-mannered kids can be pressured to commit senseless violence and do the most ruthless things to get ahead.

But no doubt the driving force behind the novel is the thriller aspect of it, which on occasion crosses over into horror territory. Tobey is well-versed in AR gaming, knows his pop culture, and has clearly spent time trawling through online social media communities such as Reddit, incorporating memes and other references into The God Game. The AI entity in this story is pretty scary indeed, made omnipresent and all-powerful by the internet and the fact that more and more facets of our lives are now being supported by monitoring and reporting technology. G.O.D. has eyes everywhere, knows your likes and dislikes, your darkest secrets, and can even accurately predict your next moves. While the concept of the game and many of the scenarios in this book may seem farfetched, somewhere in there is a cautionary tale about online privacy and how information can be abused and used against you, and that part is definitely no fiction.

Still, I would recommend The God Game to fans of sci-fi, as long as you don’t expect too much in the way of explanations. Like I said, the plot can sometimes get a little over-the-top, the game itself doesn’t operate on clear rules, and the world-building surrounding it is a bit fuzzy. I also wouldn’t categorize the novel as traditional YA fiction, but if you have low tolerance for teen drama like high school crushes, bully problems, or conflicts between kids and parents, do be aware there’s quite a lot of that in here. That said, if you like stories involving crazy, out-of-control bots and AI, then you’re in for a treat, as that is the book’s most prominent theme. Fans of thrillers should take note as well, since the storytelling style is a good match for the genre. I was kept riveted by the great characters, fascinating concept, and the plot’s fast pacing, and I’m pleased to say the momentum never ends.
Profile Image for Dave.
2,959 reviews309 followers
December 2, 2019
The God Game may sound at first like yet another juvenile sci-fi journey, but it is as incredibly addictive as any video game ever made. Once you start reading this, it's impossible to put down. On the one hand, it's a modern version of Revenge of the Nerds. On the other hand, it's a complex morality play. And, on yet another hand (there are lots of hands), what happens when you build an artificial intelligence that's convinced it's God. Is it a game or is it real? At one point do reality and virtual reality meet? What is real and what is not?

The Stars of the book are a high school gaming crew of outcasts. What happens when they stumble on an internet game, one that will give them whatever they desire if they play the game and punish them if they don't play along. Maybe what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens in this game changes reality. And once the genie is out of the bottle, you are not going to fit the genie back in.
Profile Image for Steven.
1,047 reviews383 followers
January 7, 2020
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book was INSANE. I couldn't put it down - I read this while on a cruise, and stopping for our excursions and meals was really hard, because so much was happening and it just kept bringing me back for more!

To recap it in a spoiler-free nutshell, the main characters sign up for an online game with an AI that claims to be "god" and it starts affecting their real lives. Good things happen. Bad things happen. They do good things. They do bad things. The game starts to control them...

Needless to say, this sci-fi thriller was intense and a lot of fun to read. I'm just glad I was reading about it and not living it!
Profile Image for Dee Arr.
734 reviews87 followers
December 22, 2019
Every so often a story falls into your lap that has all the elements you’re looking for, one that compels you to keep reading far into the night and causes you regret when you realize you will complete the book when you really want is for it to continue. “The God Game” by Danny Tobey is one of those stories.

The story begins with an innocence, introducing five friends who discover a game that seems like it might be fun even though there are veiled warnings about what may happen. It doesn’t take long for the group to discover that evil lurks just below the surface as they confront situations that push against their willpower and strain their personal ethical boundaries.

The story quickly becomes dark as every action causes a reaction. The author introduces numerous twists and turns, most of them unexpected. The pacing of the story is excellent, as once the game is introduced, the consequences introduce more challenges and it feels like nothing ever slows down as the book accelerates to the climax. I did mention that the story turns dark, and that includes the language. If you are bothered by vulgarities and f-bombs, as the characters become more entangled in the game the wording increases in coarseness. While an excess amount of vulgarities has bothered me in other books, I felt Mr. Tobey used them to ratchet up the tension and thus added to rather than detracted from the essence of the story.

The author has mixed a sci-fi horror story with a full dose of fear of artificial intelligence and what it could do, given the opportunity. The POV changes and allows the reader to experience the characters’ personal debates as they each question the ethics and morality of the choices presented by the game. In this era of AI getting smarter all the time, it raises the specter of something like “The God Game” actually happening. Highly recommended. Five stars.

My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an advance electronic copy of this book.
Profile Image for Bex (Beckie Bookworm).
1,867 reviews1,193 followers
March 11, 2020

this was essentially a science fiction thriller.
The basic premise and idea were imaginative but for me, it fell short of the mark slightly.
if I'm honest it was all the mythical and religious philosophy that lost me that and all the coder talk it left me a tad lost and slightly confused within the narrative.
In short, I enjoyed it when it just played out more normally without all the pretentiousness and hidden meanings.
So the basic premise is an invitation to play the god game and the vindicator's a ragtag group of high school misfits with high IQ's well its right up there street.
Told from all the kids POV but with the main focus, in my opinion, being on Charlie this was somewhat interesting if sometimes confusing but the characters themselves here were just not very likeable individuals this, in turn, made it difficult to invest in them.
Things then start to escalate and events almost have a snowball effect with each action causing a reaction and so forth until everything starts to implode in a dramatic fashion.
It's all about the three degrees of separation and this featured this heavily.
If you like your science fiction and philosophical debates about right and wrong and so forth then this may be a fit for you.
I found myself skimming a lot especially over the heavy stuff still it was a somewhat solid read and I did finish.
I voluntary reviewed a copy of The God Game.


Reviewed By Beckie Bookworm
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
883 reviews273 followers
November 18, 2020
Let's start with a disclaimer:
This is NOT a teen/YA book like Ready Player One. It is an 'adult' science fiction read, I would liken it to Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

Plot & Characters
Sadly The God Game was not as good as I had hoped for (although I had high expectations); but still a solid read. Featuring lots of teenage angst and crazy decisions. If you're not ready to be annoyed by typical teen behavior (think book 5 of Harry Potter but times 10) then you may not want to delve into this one. The characters are so well written that they feel very genuine and make decisions just like I would have as a teen (and might still as an adult). Bullying has a huge presence throughout. There are also abusive parents that play a factor.
The 'game' itself is cleverly disguised. In actual fact (and you will realize this quickly) it is just a series of moral dilemmas. Many of them are extreme; but the outcome of if you'd choose to be moral or not, sacrifice yourself for the good of others, or protect your family or friends no matter the cost all remains. We make decisions like this everyday. They don't always lead to immediate death or dismemberment; but they are contributing to overall outcomes. I think there is a good reminder in The God Game that Danny Tobey wants us to remember in the end: every decision we make leads somewhere. Choice is freewill, and there is always a choice. It might not be a choice between two (or more) things we want to do; but it is still a choice.

Ultimately this is a philosophy story. Asking questions like: what is a god? who is a god? and how can they even exist?
To be a god does it only require someone to worship you or think you are a god? Or is there some sort of omniscient presence required? Now bend your mind for a second, what if someone, or an AI, with unlimited Internet access was manipulating you in such a way that you were both terrified and intrigued. Because let's face it there is a large aspect of almost every religion and god in the world that expects (or relies) on us being terrified of them.

This is nothing like Ready Play One in my opinion. Not only is it written for adults; but the overarching concepts and plot are far more complex. While both books are sci-fi and both feature teenage characters; the reality is that this is not enough to make them comparable. So for those concerned it will be like Ready Player One, rest assured it is not.
Definitely worth a read even if only to enjoy Tobey's fast paced writing and admire the intricate tasks that he comes up with for our teens to engage in.
Profile Image for Chris.
205 reviews56 followers
December 19, 2019
High school senior Charlie, and his small circle of friends are known as The Vindicators. They are invited to play The G.O.D. game. A highly intelligent AI game on the web. What starts out as simple pranks eventually turns dark and dangerous, as The Vindicators' lives spin out of control. Although, what do you expect from a game that says "if you win, your dreams come true. Lose, and you die!"

This book hooks you and becomes an addictive read. The tension and suspense keeps mounting and the chapters are so short, you'll find yourself staying up deep into the night thinking, "just one more chapter." The author does a fantastic job of getting the reader to feel sympathy for some characters and dislike for the others. The technological descriptions can be confusing if you're not in the IT field, but that can easily be overlooked because of how good the story is.

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, and author Danny Tobey for gifting me with an e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Aga Durka.
199 reviews60 followers
December 5, 2019
This was one of the best sci-fi thrillers I’ve read this year. It was brilliant, surprising, and quite entertaining. The author did a great job at not only keeping the plot intriguing and action packed but he also managed to develop great characters. I am not going to lie, I was a little intimated by all the technical descriptions of video games and computer systems but I am happy to say that I was able to follow the story and fully appreciate the author’s clever ideas and plot twists. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially to those that enjoy sci-fi thrillers. This one is definitely not a book you want to miss.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press and the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Lu .
337 reviews34 followers
January 7, 2020
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.

CW: attempted suicide, violence, self harm, depression, blackmail

The God Game is the most peculiar, exciting and brilliant book I've read in a long time.
The writing is perfect, the characters well rounded and so real, so relatable (Alex and Charlie were really perfect) it hurts, the plot captivating and chilling.
Everything starts with a chatbot, the God game, that answer any kind of question, an AI that claims to be God and starts sending messages on Charlie's and his friends' phones, asking them to do something. It's a game, a wild one where it controls everything, can access everything, from phones, to pc, to cameras and so on. It's God, He sees and knows everything.
Intrigued by the ad, Charlie, Peter, Vanhi, Alex and Kenny decided to play this peculiar game, using their phone, accessing, in this way, a cool and peculiar virtual reality. The Game is simple. If you do well, you get Goldz and something good will happen in your life. If you do bad, you get Blaxx and more Blaxx you got more likely the player will be killed. And if someone dies in the game, dies in the real life. Skeptic and curious, Charlie and his friends decided to try the Game and they started doing quests, following instructions, running around the school at night, discovering it, through the virtual reality, full of mysteries, gods and quests to accept or to buy.
The game inspired by the religion is a wild one and day after day they each found caught up with missions and with the Game. From simple request to dangerous one, to lies and cover ups.

I loved many things about this book. The game itself is creepy, brilliant, controlling, managing to use its players like pawns, using them and turning them against one other. In a game where the difference between reality and virtual one is really slim, where they can't trust anything electronic, the characters move and act, in a giant chessboard, without knowing exactly what's the Game real goal, where are the others players, what will they do, what are the purposes of their missions. It rewards them if the player do what the Game asks and punish them otherwise. It's a crescendo of missions, lies, revenge and so on, pushing and threatening them into doing things they wouldn't have done, otherwise.

What I loved more about this book are its characters. I rarely read characters so real, authentic and raw. So multidimensional. So relatable and well constructed.
Charlie is a young man, who lost his mother to cancer and since her disease and death his life, his grades and relationship with his father is spiralling out of control. He feels resentment for his father, who fell apart when his wife got sick, basically leaving Charlie to do the caretaker and bearing his suffering alone.
Vanhi is a brilliant woman, a bass player, an Hindu girl who's struggling against her parents' expectations and their desire she will go to Harvard, hiding a bad grade and a paper forged from them.
Kenny is a cellist, the philosopher, from a very religious family and he too, like Vanhi, has to suffer his parents' pressures to do better, to do perfectly.
Alex is a nihilist, a young man who is abused at home, depressed and lonely, bullied and feeling himself suicidal.
Peter is the golden boy of the situation, the rich one, the carefully hidden deranged one, doing drugs and dealing, with his absentee father and a mother who left him when he was young.
They found solace in their group, called the Vindicators, doing pranks, supporting each other and doing the Game, that tested their friendships, morals and lives.

Each one of this characters, the main ones, are beautifully written and I was able to feel their rage, pain and frustrations. What it impressed me was that the side characters were amazingly well rounded too. There aren't sterotypes, like the girl to win over or the bad guy. We read about Mary, the perfect and beautiful girl, controlled and with a big secret to mantain. Kurt, violent henchman, with an homophobic father. Tim, violent and controlling, with his stealing father. There are no absolutely good or bad people in this book, but incredibly complex ones. Even Charlie and his friends nurture feelings that could hurt one other, like envy or bitterness or rage, raging against each other, hurting each other.
The Game, knowing everything about them and their dreams, manipulated them and everyone else in a big chessboard, moving pieces like it wants. Or He wants, according to the Game.

It was amazing reading about the augumented reality, seen through phones or glasses, reading about missions, packages, quests and it was disturbing and creepy see the characters being controlled more and more, until they try to quit the Game and be free. Reading they being so controlled and observed was suffocating and I felt their emotions, their warring thoughts.
I loved the characters in The God Game, because they were flawed and human. Charlie with his rage, Alex with his depression, Peter with his need to control everything, Kenny and Vanhi with their desires and family's pressures. It was moving reading how Charlie was so lost after his mother's death and how Peter, in his own, maybe debatable ways, was with him or how Charlie was so caught up in his own grief to not want to reach for Alex's pain, favouring the carefree and unconcerned Peter. Or how Alex was so in pain to get involved so much in the Game, that used his suffering to manipulated him. Or Vanhi's and Kenny's ambitions, their fear of disappointing their parents, their need to do the right thing, to be honest.

This book put forward interesting and moral questions. If it someone or something offered me what I want, would I accepted it? Even if it hurt someone? Could I hurt someone to save someone else, maybe a loved one? Someone else's pain is worth my friends' or family's lives or could I sacrife someone to save myself or my loved ones?
During all the book, from small and innocent missions, the characters found themselves debating moral choices, which path take. If someone is a bully he deserved to be hurt and humiliated? Can I ruin someone's life to life mine better?
What will you do if your life isn't yours to control anymore? If you didn't ever have any control on it? What will you do when you're so caught up in the Game and you can't see any way out other than the worst one? And the Game, in his infinite power, manipulated, fooled and tricked all his gamers, until the ending, showing them the free will was a difficult thing to achieve, in The God Game, to be free from the Game itself.

Charlie and his friends grew in the book, I loved reading about their development, their choices, their desires, their healing each other. I loved their relationship, how they all are so fallible, human, torn between doing the right thing and follow their desires, their selfishness.

Besides pushing the reader to think about moral choices, grey areas and religion, it's a book about friendship and relationship, mostly between fathers and sons, from the complex and incredibly frustrating one with Alex and his father to Charlie and his dad.
About friendship, because it was absolutely moving reading they going to the great lenght to save and protect each other, notwithstanding their small fights and misunderstanding.
It was a book that gave me hope, because its characters, even though they are hurt and flawed and will do mistakes in the future, go towards a path of growth, forgiveness, another chance to liberation, like one of the character say.
That things may seems bleak and awful, but you could go on, pick yourself up, glue the pieces together again and try to be better, to try again and harder. Not alone, of course. With friends, family and help.

This book is absolutely brilliant, pushing the reader to ask questions, to seek answers, to be moved by friendship and love
And, to be honest, to fear how far the technology, any AI, could go and do.
An excellent read. A 5 solid star. Danny Tobey's writing style is enthralling and his characters are alive and pulsing with life and choices.

“I'm a guinea pig in a fucking morality play that stops when I'm dead?”

His mind was a house of pain, all exits locked.
January 2, 2020
Welcome to The God Game! This book, and the game within it, feel like something straight out of a Black Mirror episode–“Shut Up and Dance” (the one with the blackmail text messages) especially comes to mind. Prepare yourself for moral dilemmas, the horrors of technology, the complexities of teenage friendship and high school life, and above all, a riveting plot that makes this book’s 450+ pages absolutely fly past. Just remember, even as you read this review: G.O.D. is always watching.

Quick plot rundown: Five high school seniors, who refer to themselves as the Vindicators, spend their time coding and executing the occasional practical joke. When one of the group members, Peter, introduces the others to a game known as “The God Game,” run by an AI that was trained on all the world’s religious texts and literally believes itself to be God (or G.O.D., as it calls itself), the teens quickly find their lives consumed by the game’s endless quests, tests, and blackmail. Following G.O.D.’s directions earns you Goldz, which lead to real-world rewards of cash and favors, while disobedience earns you Blaxx, which bring real-life consequences ranging from embarrassment to physical violence to actual death. What starts as just some innocent pranks (changing a street sign to read “DONALD TRUMP IS A SHAPE-SHIFTING LIZARD,” for example) quickly morphs into lying, cheating, vandalism, and worse. As the game takes over the Vindicators’ lives, blurring the lines of reality through the use of AR glasses, they soon realize that playing the game is a risky endeavor…but getting out might prove fatal.

There were three elements of The God Game that really made it work for me: the eerily prescient premise, the character development, and the breakneck pace and turns.

The idea of a quasi-sentient AI is nothing new; such stories date back decades. What makes this one different is how immediate, how very now it is. Though the story is set in 2015, the technologies it contains are all based on ones we already have in our world: glasses that encourage augmented reality, security cameras in every corner of schools, smart car systems, artificial intelligence that learns from interaction and can communicate in a way similar to a human being, and so on. The author of the book is actually an expert in AI who regularly writes articles on it and speaks about it at conferences, and his expertise and strong handle on the topic is clear in every chapter. From the omnipresence and hackability of technology to the ethical complications inherent in the world of AI–not to mention the concerns that grow even greater when religion is thrown into the mix–Tobey depicts a comprehensive picture of the horrifying reach and potential of smart technologies left unchecked. Although some of the principles seemed grossly oversimplified–especially G.O.D.’s ability to create and manipulate images, despite the fact that even simple image recognition is still a very weak area in AI–the overall effect of just slightly enhancing what we already know was still chilling and highly effective.

This intriguing and relevant premise was further brought to life by the complex, well-developed cast of characters. All five of the Vindicators are fleshed out, with their own goals, insecurities, and complicated histories, and their relationships with each other are constantly in flux in a way that is consistent with typical high school student behavior. At the heart of the story is Charlie, once a golden boy with dreams of going to Harvard, whose academics and social life have plummeted following his mother’s death a year ago. Peter, reckless and always out to push boundaries, uses manipulation and false bravado to compensate for his own messy past. Kenny, a philosophical-minded boy, struggles to keep to his fiercely-held principles even as G.O.D. demands that he compromise them. Vanhi, the only girl in the Vindicators, shares Charlie’s Harvard dream, but she knows that a single blemish from her past could wreck everything. And Alex, bullied by his peers for being the “dumb Asian,” struggles to stay afloat amid a tumultuous home life and deep personal insecurity. Alternating between loyalty and betrayal, they tread the treacherous waters of college applications, popularity, and of course, the sacrifices G.O.D. demands of them, with lively banter, deeply-felt emotions, and the signature mistrust of anyone and everyone that so many high schoolers hold.

Another point worthy of note is the sheer diversity of the characters, both primary and secondary. Three of the Vindicators are non-white, and Alex’s parents are immigrants. Vanhi is a lesbian and her little brother has a developmental disability. A major secondary character is also queer. None of these identities feel like tokenism; all are organic parts of the characters’ identities, brought up when relevant but otherwise not aggressively shoehorned in.

My only quibble with the characters in general was the fact that all of the adults were pretty awful. Several of them were cheating on their spouses, some were abusive and/or manipulative of their children, and even the ones who weren’t awful still put an absurd amount of pressure on their kids. I’m all for parents who aren’t perfect, but it rang a little false that all of them were so terrible.

Finally, what held this whole book together was its plot and pacing. It never dragged, always moving along at a fast clip, but never getting so fast that it was confusing (save for one moment where the Vindicators suddenly all come up with a complex-yet-brilliant idea in the span of about two pages). Truth be told, it was hard to put down–just as each fresh horror was resolved, a new one would crop up, demanding that you keep going to ensure that everything turns out okay. This is a thriller in every sense of the term, with everything from physical fights to car chases to psychological terror to life-or-death scenarios; the result is a dark and compelling page-turner with no time wasted.

Oh, and one more thing: there are twists galore, as one would expect, but the biggest doozy is the final chapter. I won’t say any more on that front, but that final “gotcha!” moment was a perfect unnerving conclusion to an unnerving tale.

The God Game is a tricky rabbit-hole of a book that sucks you in with seemingly innocent characters but quickly morphs into something bigger, scarier, and higher-stakes than you imagined. The questions it raises will linger long after you turn the final page–as will, I expect, a general unease around computers and a desperate need to keep your webcam covered at all times. But don’t worry. G.O.D. isn’t angry with you…probably, anyway.

TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING: physical child abuse, abusive romantic relationship, suicide attempt, detailed depiction of depression, attempted mass attack of school, outing of a closeted gay character, illegal drug use

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Sarah.
564 reviews142 followers
January 20, 2020
This book is so much fun from the moment you pick it up until the very last page. It’s a book about a group of teenaged friends who call themselves the Vindicators. They are the smart kids, enrolled in honors classes with dreams of ivy league schools. They code and belong to the robotics club.

And at the urging of a friend, they join in on a virtual reality dark web game called The God Game. Either you win or you die. But not really.. right?

At first the game seems harmless. It’s easy to earn gold and make the “good” choices (there are a lot of moral conundrums at play here). Gold can be traded for awesome stuff. But the game increases in difficulty. Players can reap fantastic rewards, if only they’re willing to step on a few heads first. They can also earn Blaxx. A kind of strike against you that will lead to punishment if you accumulate too many.

I really enjoyed all the characters. They all have secrets to hide and are motivated by different things: romantic relationships, college, parents… The plot lines twist and turn and keep you guessing. As the players are sucked deeper and deeper into the game you wonder how they’ll ever make it out.

I was about halfway through the book when I realized how cleverly plotted it all was. I love when a book sets things up and circles back around to them later, and it was done brilliantly here. By the end, it will require some suspension of disbelief, which is why it wasn’t a full five star read for me.

A couple notes about style: this is a book with short chapters that jump between several POVs. For me, that style works perfectly, but I know it’s not for everyone. Though this is written about teenagers it’s also not a YA novel. I was surprised about how dark it all becomes, so content warnings:

Thank you to the publisher who sent an ARC for review.
Profile Image for Michelle.
650 reviews182 followers
January 6, 2020
Available 1/7/2020
2020 PopSugar Challenge"Read a book with robot, cyborg or AI character."

The God Game was so much more than I thought it would be when I read the synopsis. This was a very fast paced Sci-Fi fantasy. The structure of the book reminded of James Patterson. Short 3-6 page chapters ending with a cliff hanger ratcheting up the tension and compelling you to keep reading. This does not mean the The God Game is strictly plot focused. The story speaks to who we are as a society, our morality and our over reliance on computers. We naively give access to our homes and private lives through our phones, computers and companion apps. Socially we are led to put our entire lives on display - our moral code dictated by hive mentality, governed by "likes" issued from a crowd of people we will never meet in real life.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Press for sending me this ARC.
Profile Image for Ari.
738 reviews172 followers
January 8, 2020
Words Like Stars | Amazon | B&N | Twitter

Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

What does it mean to be saved?

I've had a repeating nightmare in the past, where I'm walking down a long hallway, and no matter what door I open, I know there is no way out without even stepping through one of them. I'm sure everyone's had some sort of variation of that dream at some point.

That's how it felt to read The God Game, with all of the anxiety and desperation of that nightmare.

As the story began to unfold at the beginning, the setting and characters and plot felt a bit juvenile. And that might have been on purpose. It's such a silly game at first, almost playful. Because, really, how can something like this be real. It does stretch the limits of not only imagination but reality—far too much at times—but that's also what makes you think “How is no one able to stop this??? How can something like this go so far???” And really, how much of this is even believable? But the more that the story progresses, the more that juvenile quality begins to fade away as things become darker.

The fact that this is all centered around a group of high school students is almost too perfect. High school, where life is not the easiest for many of those who attend, already filled with its lot of cruelty and issues, makes the “game” start off as a salvation—as advertised—only to wrap its claws around the players and sink them deeper to the bottom. It's very predictable, but it does the job very well.

The more I read, the more I started to feel a horrible, creeping dread while events escalated. It's perfect, that sensation. That's the story nicely seeping into us the reader, doing a hell of a job with its craft and the torment of its characters. And despite this, the novel is just plain fun to read. It drags ever so slightly at the beginning, there yet barely noticeable. But once it picks up speed, everything careens toward its inevitable conclusion and you cannot help but want to be along for the ride.

I wouldn't say that finding out the main culprit among the group of friends was surprising. The clues were there all along. The reveal, however, was still satisfactory, even if the character's staged death played a little weakly at the closing. That door left open, letting you see that, oh, you thought it was over but no no no, it will continue. I think a finite conclusion would have played out better, but if anybody wants to imagine how things will keep progressing then imagination now has food for thought.
Profile Image for Erin Clemence.
1,004 reviews297 followers
June 11, 2020
“Win and All Your Dreams Come True. Lose and you Die”- that is the virtual invitation Charlie and his friends receive one night, while playing The God Game. Thinking it’s a joke, or a cutting edge up-and-coming virtual reality game, they automatically agree to play. Soon, they are getting everything they ever wanted, but at a great cost. Is it worth the cost to stay in and play? Or is the cost greater to get out (if you can)?

Tobey’s sci-fi technology novel, “The God Game” has pieces of “Ready Player One” and the movie “Nerve” (Emma Roberts) mixed in with a sick and twisted version of “Pokemon Go”. The technology in this book is beyond anything we are experiencing in the modern world today and of course, Tobey uses teenagers as his protagonists, not only for their susceptibility to media influence but also for their technological savvy.

Charlie, Alex, Peter, Kenny and Vanhi all take turns narrating this novel, telling their side of the story. All are hard-core tech geeks, social outcasts, and generally invisible in most facets of their lives. For the most part they are likable and bright, and have just the right amount of naiveté to be believable.

“The God Game” has a lot of “computer-geek-ese” throughout, some portions spoken in C+ computer code, but it is not a difficult plot to follow. There are obvious religious undertones in the story, which don’t seem to encourage one side or the other, but provide a lot of thought-provoking moments. I always support a novel that lets me think a little; on morality, humanity and religion in this case. Tobey does a fair bit of “Trump bashing” in this novel, and I will honestly say that this swayed my review down from five stars to four. Not because I have an opinion on Trump one way or the other (I’m Canadian!) but I find divisive politics has its place, and it is NOT in books that are designed to serve as an escape from reality.

Tech-jargon and political propaganda aside, “The God Game” is unique and edgy, and I can definitely see it being a huge hit with today’s social media obsessed society. Tobey writes a thought provoking novel and I look forward to reading his future works.
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584 reviews1,251 followers
January 20, 2020
“You are invited!

COme inside and play with G.O.D.”

There’s been versions of this type of story cropping up over the past decade or more. It’s a Black Mirror-esque plot revolving around technology and how once we integrate it with our lives we are at its mercy. It almost seems too far-fetched until you realize that we already have most, if not all of the technology present in the book currently out in the world today.

What I think this book is great at is depicting the relationships between the teenagers at the center of it. I believed their friendships, even if the premise felt a little out there sometimes. Which....it did. The story might have gotten away from the author at a few points, but that’s kind of the fun of it all. It’s better not to take these types of plot-lines as realistic depictions of where tech is headed, but instead look at the way the characters involved handle the new situations.

So much of The God Game was a great example of a slippery slope. When you start making small bargains with yourself, they can eventually snowball into larger sacrifices that go against your character and integrity. And it’s that much harder to say no once you’ve already invested so much of yourself. By the time you realize you’re in over your head, it’s already too late.

If you’re interested in a fast-paced Sci-fi thriller with a YA affect, you’ll probably like this offering from Danny Tobey. It’s not normally the type of thing I’d be drawn to, but it was a nice change of pace from what I’ve been reading lately.

*Thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Netgalley & Goodreads for advance copies!
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