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The Divers' Game

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  89 ratings  ·  35 reviews
From the inimitable mind of award-winning author Jesse Ball, a novel about an unsettlingly familiar society that has renounced the concept of equality — and the devastating consequences of unmitigated power

The old-fashioned struggle for fairness has finally been abandoned. It was a misguided endeavor. The world is divided into two groups, pats and quads. The pats may kill
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Ecco
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3.89  · 
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 ·  89 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usa, 2019-read
If Jesse Ball's mind was an actual place, I'd love to travel there: I'm sure it would be spellbinding and full of weird surprises, riveting, strange and disturbing. No one writes about human cruelty and its consequences like this guy, and no one employs the enlightening power the perspective of a kid can provide - far away from any cheap kitsch - like the winner of last year's Gordon Burn Prize (for Census, a tribute to his dead brother). To write like this, you have to have deep moral convictio ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With simple, direct prose, The Divers' Game reads like a dark fable, or perhaps a folktale beamed backwards through time from a distant future. It's a dystopian other-worldly setting, in which our present civilisation has passed out of living memory; where "zoos" are more like museums of extinction, and citizens arm themselves with canisters of brightly coloured gas to be deployed with lethal force against the immigrant classes, at the slightest affront.

The novel comprises four short set pieces
Paul Fulcher
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: net-galley, 2019
The Divers' Game is the latest novel from Jesse Ball, the 4th of his I have read, and someone who is fast emerging as one of our most interesting modern-day writers.

It looks like it’s about a very violent society that pretends it isn’t violent at all.

It smells like licorice left in a hole.

Source: A hyena who searched Jesse Ball's house in 2018 and found the draft of this novel

He said, we can welcome them, as long as we can tell them apart. As long as we
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best dystopian novels pick the themes of their time, extend them into the future and present the reader with an all too plausible nightmare society.

Imagine a society with a refugee crisis. Then imagine a society that responds to that refugee crisis not by rejecting the refugees but by allowing them to stay as long as they are physically marked so that everyone knows who belongs and who does not. Imagine then that these “others” in society are stigmatised and often subject to violence. Imagin
Gumble's Yard
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Dive down. You just dive down and find the hole, then it starts. I mean you crawl. For one pond to the other. The divers’ game.

the part where you pull yourself into the hole is the worst. Because from there you just have to go on. You have to trust that the tunnel’s the same [as it was last time]

This book tends to be reviewed as set in a near-future dystopia, one which imagines a societal approach to mass immigration (and to undesirables) that seems only a logical extension of current trends
Jessica Woodbury
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, speculative
I have attempted a couple of times to read a Jesse Ball book, waiting for the one that was right for me. Ball is not exactly my perfect fit, he's more of a literary impressionist while I tend to stick to more realism. With THE DIVERS' GAME I was able to get engrossed in the world Ball created quickly. And even though it isn't my perfect fit as a plot person, I really enjoyed the look into the dark world he's created.

There are a lot of ways to mess up a dystopian novel, but it turns out Ball's st
Chris Haak
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jesse Ball has his own special way of looking at the world that amazes me again and again. In this novel he looks at migration and creates a dystopian civilization that really got to me. People can be goddamn awful if society's laws allows them to do so...
Thank you Harper Collins and Edelweiss for the ARC.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jesse Ball is a marvel of a writer. Each book of his that I’ve read – The Curfew, Silence Once Begun, A Cure for Suicide, How to Set a Fire and Why – has been inventive, imaginative, and often, transformative. So it is small wonder that I wanted to be an early reader for this, his latest.

Certainly these dark and unsettling times have informed this dystopian novel, in which the world is divided into two groups: quads and pats. The pats are the privileged country natives and the quads are the refu
Jessica Sullivan
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read
There is no contemporary author quite like Jesse Ball.
Peter Tillman
NPR review by Hugo Award-winning editor Jason Heller:
"Dystopian stories are, in essence, thought experiments. And few come as thoughtful as The Divers' Game.

The latest novel from acclaimed author Jesse Ball depicts a world both unimaginably unjust and all too believably cruel: Society has been split into two distinct halves, the pats and the quads, with the former group given unchecked supremacy over the second. It isn't the most original premise in dysto
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Out Sept. 10, 2019: I love Jesse Ball. Census served as my introduction to his work (and the ending made me sob).

No crying this time around, just a lot of chills and breathless page turning. Ball created such a fully formed dystopian setting, rife with conflict. His young characters, many of which find themselves embroiled in the most horrific snares of the book, offer up gut punch after gut punch until the final devastating section; an ending that had me wanting to go back into the fray all ov
Tonstant Weader
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Diver’s Game is a painful book to read in Trump’s America. It is set in a society that has embraced inequality, not only of outcomes but of opportunities. Ball imagines a society that feels beset by refugees. They decide to let them in if they can tell them apart from the citizens or pats. So they brand them with a red hat on their faces. Then they cut off their thumbs. Then they decide they have no standing in law so any action against them, even killing them, is not violence. Then they seg ...more
Joy Clark
This is not what I would consider an "enjoyable" book. It's far too profound and existentially upsetting to be enjoyable. Honestly for the first 3/4, I was planning to give it 2 stars. It wasn't until the final few chapters that the brilliance of Jesse Ball became apparent. Perhaps it was just my tired brain missing the important stuff (I do most of my reading at night), but things didn't quite make a lot of sense until closer to the end. Some great quotes in here, but since I read an ARC (thank ...more
Shira Selkovits
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pub Date: September 10, 2019.

Jesse Ball creates a fascinating dystopian world and allows us to see it through the eyes of young people. Their perspective on violence and other societal horrors prove to be cavalier at times, as this is the only way of life they’ve ever known. Sharp and dark.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Caleb Masters
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Divers’ Game does what dystopian fiction does best: giving us a powerful, haunting glimpse at the future by amplifying the realities of today. Society is clearly divided into two groups, the “pats” who maintain they are the original inhabitants of their country, living in privilege; and the “quads” marked immigrants without rights who live in giant, lawless ghettos. Ball’s book is incredibly written; precise detail sketching out just enough of the world to let the reader fill in the rest. Pr ...more
Roman Clodia
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've seen reviews which discuss this as a future dystopia but for me it's a veiled fable about now. Ball offers up a world divided and ghettoised, where the 'haves' can kill at will, where the 'have nots' (specifically refugees and criminals released from prison) are non-persons without legal rights.

It's a world that lacks compassion and empathy, where language has been redefined so that the culture can embrace violence while still calling itself non-violent, where fear and insult are common cu
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
(4.5 stars) What could possibly be next? Where does it all end?

With the fabric of western society seemingly gnarled, knotted and permanently stained in the center and increasingly battered, tattered and frayed around the edges, we find ourselves asking these kinds of questions.

In his new novel, The Divers' Game, the inimitable Jesse Ball submerges us into a near-future society that has abandoned all pretense of equality and other Enlightenment values. Everyone belongs to one of two castes: quad
A Snake, A Rope, A Wall or a Tree?
Four Ways of Looking at a Dystopia*
Review of an Advance Reading Copy of the Ecco books hardcover edition expected September 10, 2019.

What came to mind while reading The Divers' Game was the old Hindu parable of an elephant being examined by blind men. Each of them has their own unique "view" of the object which is being examined and that view is dependent on which portion of the animal they are touching. The one holding the trunk thinks it is a snake, the one ho
Sep 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
This novel has me so confused. They way the dialog is written and formatted it’s hard to tell who is who when talking. This dystopian novel is set in a time where lower class is branded and thumbs taken. For what purpose? I honestly didn’t understand! The middle of the novel then switches to focus on Lessor, a different person than the two first characters Lois and Lethe. And then it goes into the divers game section. I feel like the meaning of this book just went straight over my head. It is cr ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways, favorites
A book that can be read in a sitting or two but will remain in the memory for years to come. This story ripped out my soul, tore it to shreds, and put it back together a different way. A dystopian world of pats and quads, where the quads have no rights as citizens and are branded, disfigured, and put to death by gas without consequences or even a second thought. We see this world through the eyes of varying characters, each seeing things from a different point of view. I really enjoyed this book ...more
Elida Liederbach
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book to read and it would normally not be one I would have picked up. But Jesse Ball's writing gripped me into a dark world of of what would society look like in two classes. The have's and the have nots. Just being born into one class determined your place among others. A society where we put the have nots' into a separate section of town and if they left that section all was fair game. Wearing gas masks to destroy or protect ourselves from them. The world Ball shows from a chi ...more
Sarah Furger
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"... - let me say, we never live but by taking resources that might have gone to another. We are hungry; our greed knows no bounds, and in the course of a life we consume what we must to proceed. We think that is fair."

Jesse Ball may be one of the most important writers of the day and proves it with this short but fascinating novel. What if compassion wasn't inherent to the human experience? A horrible thought but it forces the reader to look inward and analyze all while thoroughly engrossed in
Apr 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Received this ARC from Westwinds Bookshop, MA
I’ve given this 3 stars BUT I would rather there were a category of ‘I don’t know what to make of this book. It confused me’
I do enjoy a dystopian tale but this made me uncomfortable, not angry, as is my want. The women are sooo dark it was difficult for me to find reason.
I sit here shaking my head, what the hell did I just read? And that’s not a bad thing, at all. It has taken me out of my comfort zone, not by its its content.
It’s a subve
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A stark, gut-wrenching look at a dystopian future that is both fully formed and entirely plausible. THE DIVERS’ GAME grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the last page. Bell has created unforgettable characters and and a chilling story about a new society that clearly divides those who have, and those who don’t. I don’t want to give much away, because the discovery of the world is one of the best parts of the book, but know it’s a tough read from an incredible writer.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lots of worldbuilding, with more implications of terror than depictions thereof. Reminds me of A CURE FOR SUICIDE, and a truly angry book by Ball’s standards. The folks who came to him bc of CENSUS may be turned away by this one - but ppl who miss his earlier work will likely find something to mull over (as all of Jesse’s work encourages) in this one.
And, oh yeah, remember to vote and to be a good fucking person, okay?
Beth Burnett
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Divers' Game is an examination of what a society that divides people and propagates violence does to the individual person, as shown through multiple perspectives. Jesse ball has this profound style in which he is able to succinctly show moments of incredibly earthborn and paramount thoughts and emotions.
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Thought provoking and in your face. Jesse Ball is everything 🖤

“What kind of suicide is it to kill in the world what you find in yourself?”
Paolo Latini
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: americans, 2019
Another eerie, surreal, ethereal masterpiece by Jesse Ball.
It poses a lot of intriguing concepts on inequality and what happens to those who are at the mercy of a group of people who hold all the power?

Review copy provided by the publisher.
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Jesse Ball (1978-) Born in New York. The author of fourteen books, most recently, the novel How To Set a Fire and Why. His prizewinning works of absurdity have been published to acclaim in many parts of the world and translated into more than a dozen languages. The recipient of the Paris Review's Plimpton Prize, as well as fellowships from the NEA, the Heinz foundation, and others, he is on the fa ...more