Friday, August 12, 2011

Top 5 novels where life is a game

List by Danielle

Cards are war, in disguise of a sport.
~ Charles Lamb

I'm halfway through the second book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy at the moment. Maybe it's just one of those moments where you find the right book at the right time (often after a string of less-satisfying reads), but it's almost unputdownable. I'm not kidding, my hubby has to bully me to go to bed at night because I keep telling myself, just one more chapter, just one more chapter, what the...?! okay, just one more chapter.

It's Collins' conflicted characters and her understated approach to the vastly emotional subject matter that I'm really enjoying, but there's something about a story built around a game that just appeals (all you other roleplayers in the house say howdy). There are more than a few great reads out there that play with the idea of life as a game - here are some of my favourites.

The Dream Park series / Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
Dream Park; The Barsoom Project; The California Voodoo Game
The South Seas Treasure Game campaign at Dream Park promises to be the futuristic fantasy theme park's greatest achievement. It's full of holographic attractions and the latest in virtual reality technology. A legendary Game Master has devised a scenario that will allow fifteen players to undertake the quest. The gamers suit up to play in an artificial enclosure that has been enhanced with special effects, holograms, actors, and a clever story line. They'll get as close as possible to living their adventure. But the fantasy is interrupted - by murder. And all evidence points to someone inside the game...

Science Fiction/Adventure. Pure cheese, with cheese on top, but one of my 'I'm sick!' or 'It's the holidays!' re-reads. The characters are cardboard morons, the authors seem to have become stuck sometime in the 50s regards women and 'comical natives', but something about it is guilty fun nevertheless. Think live roleplaying, but in a holodeck scenario.

The player of games / Iain Banks
The Culture - a human/machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game...a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life - and very possibly his death.

Science Fiction. My first Iain Banks novel, and a great introduction to his Culture books. Funny, cynical, by turns deeply unpleasant and compassionate. He's a wonderful author and this is one of his more accessible sci-fi titles.

Ender's game / Orson Scott Card
With humanity under threat from an alien race, six-year-old Ender Wiggin leaves his family on Earth to journey to the Belt. There he enters Battle School and is strictly disciplined in mind games and mock battles. In instinct, compassion and genius he is unequalled, for his is a unique destiny.

Science Fiction. A rightful classic that somehow manages to combine philosophical debates over modes of government with exciting anti-gravity battles into one powerful little package.

The Hunger Games series / Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games; Catching fire; Mockingjay
Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

YA dystopian fiction. Great pacing, neat twists and turns, good characters and increasingly high stakes - though I'm only halfway through Book 2. So far it's been well worth the hype.

The Forbidden Game series / L. J. Smith
The hunter; The chase; The kill
When Jenny buys a game for her boyfriend, Tom, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the guy behind the counter. There is something mysteriously alluring about Julian's pale green eyes and bleached blond hair. And when he places the Game into her hands, she knows their connection is something deeper. But as Jenny and her six friends play the Game at Tom's birthday celebration, a night of friends and fun quickly turns into a night of terror and obsessive love. Because the game isn't just a game - it's the seven friends' new reality, where Julian reigns as the Prince of Shadows. One by one the friends must confront their phobias to win the Game. To lose the Game is to lose their lives. And that is only the beginning.

YA paranormal romance. My first L. J. Smith (of Vampire Diaries fame), bought at a tiny second hand bookshop on the Devonport wharf. This is a shout-out, too, to my little sister who bonded with this is in a big way as a teenager. A smidgeon of cheesiness and a whole lot of fun, each book features a different life-altering game and the same core cast facing their inner (and outer) demons. My only issue with it is that, unlike Suzanne Collins, L. J. Smith's good guys are BORING and her love triangles seriously lop-sided as a result.


Madhamster said...

Heir apparent by Vivan Vande Velde.

Danielle said...

I'd never seen that before, it looks great! Will add it to my list :) cheers