The Games by Ted Kosmatka

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The Games by Ted Kosmatka

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: An exciting science fiction thriller that's also a new take on Frankenstein's monster. The white knuckle second half more than makes up for the predictability of the first, but not a book for the queasy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Titan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781164143

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It's the near future and the Olympics go on, but not without changes. A new event has been added to those that we'd recognise: genetically engineered gladiatorial combat. This is no holds barred competition, with one rule: each country's gladiator must be devoid of any human DNA. Indeed, America is so good that their team has won all the last three games' golds, thanks to geneticist Dr Silas Williams, but this year is different. This year he has nothing to do with the design; someone sent a single design criterion to an experimental intelligence computer. (You just know that was a bad idea day don't you?) The design criteria is just one sentence, just words, but words can be misunderstood and misunderstanding can be devastating for more than just genetically manufactured gladiators.

Author Ted Kosmatka went to university to study science, but a family bereavement curtailed this and so, after many convolutions, he became an award winning fiction writer with a formidable reputation for writing video games. Add that together and you realise that Kosmatka DNA runs through The Games like lettering through seaside rock.

Starting with the author's scientific roots, this, his debut novel, contains much science, but it's not intrusive. If that's your area of fascination, the technical explanations are there. If you're prone to science brain freeze (guilty!) the paragraphs can be skipped without spoiling or missing story elements. Only once did I spot Ted trying a bit too hard, making me smile rather than growl. One character is described as having skin that seemed devoid of melanin. That's 'he was rather pale' to the rest of us. Secondly this is a book that has a 'video game' (and indeed 'summer blockbuster movie') feel. Once it starts, the action is tense and full-on, the scenes are panoramic and special effects opportunities leap from every page. There are also some interesting aspects to this near future world, particularly regarding IT, education and marriage. So, how does a novel that's so graphically disposed translate into a reading experience? Very well, it seems.

The characters are out of science fiction central casting. Silas Williams is a good guy, scientist and a spare father to young nephew, Eric (Eric will come in handy later). Dr Vidonia Joao is a xenobiologist (studier of non-human life forms) who has fought her way up from the Brazilian slums. (And yes, she and Silas do, but, again, not intrusively so.) Baskar is the misguided Chair of the Olympic Committee, a slick front man for the cause who won't let a moral argument to get in the way of financial opportunity. You also have the flawed IT genius, Evan Chandler and, cunningly, we're treated to a glimpse of his past that makes the traditional reader-hate-the-not-nice-bloke rationale very difficult. Nice touch Mr K.

The first half of the book is fairly predictable. Without giving anything away that you won't spot yourself, I offer you Exhibit 1: Silas calling his sister to beg her to keep her child away from the games. For Exhibit 2 I present the guy who swears that the glass is bullet proof and will be fine. (You're with me aren't you?) But, but, but, but, but once the good stuff hits, like childbirth pains, the first half's deficiencies will fade into irrelevance. It's in the second half that the author earns every word of the book blurb's comparison placing him alongside Michael Connolly and Dean Koontz.

You can feel it in the air approaching very much like the storm analogy used throughout the story and then, suddenly, all hell is let loose. Pages turn faster, the heart beat races (also known as tachycardia by the way) and the realisation dawns that a higher gear has been engaged. No spoilers but it's well worth the ride as The Games turns into a classic race against time and peril of the sort that guaranteed I had a 1.30am bedtime. (By the way, I mean 'classic' in a good way, not meaning 'hackneyed'. This is adrenaline shot fiction at its best.)

Speaking of bedtime, The Games does develop into a bit of a gore fest so not for the abdominally weakened.

I honestly can't see how The Games can avoid transferring to other media; in fact my money is on it being at least a game for the 2016 Olympics. However a surer bet is that this won't be Ted Kosmatka's last novel which is definitely something to look forward to and, of course, he leaves the way clear for a sequel. He's not daft.

I would like to thank Titan for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.

If you enjoyed this and would like to see if the comparison is valid, try Brother Odd by Dean Koontz.

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Buy The Games by Ted Kosmatka at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Games by Ted Kosmatka at


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