Review by: Mark Palm
The buzz on Game a novel by Anders de la Motte is that it is supposed to take Scandinavian crime fiction to the next level. Now I am no expert but I have read a handful of Scandinavian writers, and they are very good at the suspense genre. It seems like I am going to have to say that Game falls short of its lofty goal.
Henrik "HP" Pettersson is a slacker who finds a cell phone and starts to receive messages inviting him to play a game ran by a secret master. The tasks range from harmless pranks to criminal acts, and eventually, dangerous ones. Each is filmed and uploaded so that viewers can comment and rank the players. This story is inter-woven with that of a bodyguard with the Swedish Police, eventually turns out to be HP's sister, Rebecca. Much is made of the difference between the careful and responsible sister and the amoral and egotistic HP. Of course it turns out that sometime in the traumatic past HP performed a selfless act for his sister that saved her and put him on the road to being a shiftless underachiever.
Now if it seems like I am wearing my white today, I don't really mean to. I have read a ton of great books about heartless bastards but they were interesting. HP and his sister never really came alive to me, and the main reason was the book's prose. Now I read this in translation, of course, and that could be part of the problem, but the narrative voice of Game struck me as being that of a teen-aged hacker that been awake all night on a diet of Red Bull.
There were some occasional moments of satire that I enjoyed, and a kind of nihilistic energy that was amusing, and the jibes about social media culture were spot on. However, any narrative momentum was often derailed by ridiculous action scenes, and a seemingly endless list of deus ex machina characters that showed up to save the day or carry the story along. Oftentimes I was simply confused as the author tried to amp the level of tension by being so vague in the transition scenes that I had no idea who he was talking about until I backtracked and did my homework.
The central plot of the Game seemed at first too omniscient, and later, too easily stymied. Probably the best way to tell that a book isn't quite working is that the more you look at it, the more things jump out that seem wrong. It's kind of like one of those blockbuster films where it seems pretty good when you are watching it, but it fades from your memory the moment you leave the theatre. I can't really endorse reading this, but I am still going to take a shot at reading the sequel, and I will let you know how it goes.