“Win and all your dreams come true. Lose, you die.” Welcome to The God Game, where Danny Tobey delves into the dark side of artificial intelligence and tests the boundaries of human morality.
While fiddling around with an internet chatbot called G.O.D., Charlie Lake and his friend Peter believe it’s nothing more than a harmless program. That is, until Charlie receives a text from an anonymous number telling him G.O.D has a job for him. Recruiting the help of the Vindicators—Charlie’s group of code-cracking, computer-savvy friends—they carry out the task and later receive invitations to join the God Game, a dark-web-developed digital world where actions have real-life consequences and you reap what you sow. The rules are simple: do as G.O.D. asks, and your actions will be rewarded, your dreams fulfilled. Failure to comply is a death sentence.
As the rewards pile up from their fairly harmless first tasks, Charlie and his friends immerse themselves in the God Game. As the tasks get more twisted and the costs too high, however, the Vindicators find themselves deeply entangled in the God Game’s cryptic network, where everyone has something to lose, especially their lives.
A technological thriller, The God Game not only thrills with its immersive plot, but also it’s well-crafted characters and tough choices. Like its omniscient AI, The God Game is written in a similar point of view, detailing each character’s thoughts and experiences within the game. Adopting this all-knowing perspective, the novel never focuses solely on one character, instead shifting frequently from person to person—a style that not only tactfully underscores G.O.D.’s omnipotence, but also escalates the book’s tension as it jumps between the characters’ moral quandaries.
Albeit readers don’t stick with one character for long each chapter, Tobey engineers the story in a way that still fosters character depth and development. Tobey’s style introduces a look into the characters that’s both raw and so humanly authentic. The choices they make, however flawed or self-serving, and the way they grapple with each dilemma accents the realism and immersion encoded throughout the book—areas in which Tobey excels, immersing both his characters in the game and his readers in the riveting story. You can’t help but place yourself into the God Game, weighing the character’s choices against your own, and I found myself ruminating at multiple points “What would I have done in this situation?” It’s thought-provoking and deep and utterly fascinating, doubly so for those familiar with coding.
A complementary and distinctive facet of the novel is the computer code Tobey supplies. Whenever the protagonists are coding or analyzing that of the God Game, the actual written code appears in the text—a feature sure to intrigue and captivate other coders. As someone unfamiliar with coding, though, the code itself did interrupt the flow a bit while reading; however, this is only a minor hindrance. Similarly, I struggled a bit with comprehending the coding solution later in the novel, yet overall, this took little away from Tobey’s magnetic storytelling.
A thought-stirring story with engaging characters, The God Game will leave readers rushing to crack the game’s code.