This is Endgame!

Endgame
Title: Endgame: The Calling
Author: James Frey & Nils Johnson-Shelton
Series: Endgame #1
Edition: ARC, 464 pages
Expected Publication: October 7th 2014 by HarperCollins
Genre(s): YA; Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Not really. I received a copy from the publisher/author but I was not obligated to write a review.

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Twelve thousand years ago, they came. They descended from the sky amid smoke and fire, and created humanity and gave us rules to live by. They needed gold and they built our earliest civilizations to mine it for them. When they had what they needed, they left. But before they left, they told us someday they would come back, and when they did, a game would be played. A game that would determine our future.

This is Endgame.

For ten thousand years the lines have existed in secret. The 12 original lines of humanity. Each had to have a Player prepared at all times. They have trained generation after generation after generation. In weapons, languages, history, tactics, disguise assassination. Together the players are everything: strong, kind, ruthless, loyal, smart, stupid, ugly, lustful, mean, fickle, beautiful, calculating, lazy, exuberant, weak. They are good and evil. Like you. Like all.

This is Endgame.

When the game starts, the players will have to find three keys. The keys are somewhere on earth. The only rule of their Endgame is that there are no rules. Whoever finds the keys first wins the game. Endgame: The Calling is about the hunt for the first key. And just as it tells the story of the hunt for a hidden key, written into the book is a puzzle. It invites readers to play their own Endgame and to try to solve the puzzle. Whoever does will open a case filled with gold. Alongside the puzzle will be a revolutionary mobile game built by Google’s Niantic Labs that will allow you to play a real-world version of Endgame where you can join one of the lines and do battle with people around you.
Will exuberance beat strength? Stupidity top kindness? Laziness thwart beauty? Will the winner be good or evil? There is only one way to find out.

Play.
Survive.
Solve.
People of Earth.
Endgame has begun.

Let’s face it, James Frey likes to fuck with people.

First there was A Million Little Pieces, a harrowing memoir of a self-destructive alcoholic going through rehab which turned out to be more fiction than fact, and then came The Final Testament of the Holy Bible in which The Messiah sleeps his way around New York with men and women, collecting followers along the way, and damning religion as he goes.

And now…well, now There’s Endgame.

I’ve already ranted about the barrage of shit people have been spouting about the book on Goodreads based solely on the synopsis (OMG it’s like SO Hunger Games… how dare he…etc), and their personal opinions of Frey – and the best thing is that it turns out that Endgame isn’t really very THG at all, he’s just fucking with you.

JOKE’S ON YOU.

In all seriousness, I can’t see any other reason why Frey and Johnson-Shelton decided there had to be twelve ancient lines, with one player chosen from each, or why protagonist Sarah Alopay had to have her hair in a braid… things pretty synonymous with The Hunger Games these days, but look at the bigger picture (or y’know, just read the book) and you may find something other than a passing resemblance to the popular dystopian franchise.

Endgame: The Calling is like nothing I’ve ever read before. As the 12 players of Endgame search across the globe for the first key to the puzzle, we too are given clues of our own to solve.

I absolutely love this concept. When I first heard about the Masquerade phenomenon of the 70s I was jealous I never got to experience it. I also used to really love those ‘choose your own path’ books, and Endgame felt a bit like those, but on a far bigger, more sophisticated scale.

As far as the story itself is concerned, I couldn’t put it down but I did feel like something was missing. I liked that it wasn’t a last-one-standing kind of deal, which was another element that set it aside from the likes of The Hunger Games and Battle Royale.

Instead, each player is playing for the survival of their lineage, so basically everyone they know and love. A clue is implanted into their heads by Kepler 22b, the ancient alien-being overseeing Endgame. This gives the players the chance to form unlikely alliances and work together to solve the clues and find the keys. Only one can win, but the objective isn’t simply to maim each other.

I thought that idea could be a great base for some intense character relationships and drama but it never really amounted to enough of a climax for me. I liked the alliance and growing romance between Sarah and aloof Jago, especially when Sarah’s non-player boyfriend Christopher is thrown into the mix, but I didn’t get very emotionally invested in any of them. Perhaps there’s just too many players to care about at this point, or maybe it’s that most of them were too focused and came across as cold.

I did like a lot of things about the book though. As with most of Frey’s work to date, Endgame is about more than it first appears. There’s a sense of a greater power at work, something ancient and spiritual which I look forward to exploring further in the series.

However, the thing I liked most of all is that every reader’s experience of Endgame will be different. I enjoyed looking up all the links and clues provided even if the whole thing hasn’t gone live yet (publication day, guys). Having to flick to the end of the book each chapter to get the link was a bit of an effort at first (I imagine this won’t be as much as an issue with digital editions), but I thought it was totally worth it in the end. Links to YouTube Videos, Wikipedia pages and google images, consisting of everything from Mongolian Warrior music, to watching a sunset changes the way you read and think about the story as you go along.

Overall, I thought Endgame was a fast-paced, fun, read, but not one that completely blew me away. What Frey and Johnson-Shelton have created here is a unique reading experience, and even if you have doubts about the synopsis (Yes Goodreads’ trolls I’m looking at you) you have to appreciate the innovation and scope of it.

Endgame will begin if the human race has shown that it doesn’t deserve to be human. That it has wasted the enlightenment They gave to us.”

unicorn rating 4

Endgame: The Calling is available to Pre-Order now.

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7 thoughts on “This is Endgame!

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