Author: T. Michael Martin
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Post-apocalyptic, zombies
Publication Date: May 7, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC/Edelweiss Review Copy
Summary: It happened on Halloween.
The world ended.
And a dangerous Game brought it back to life.
Seventeen-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have been battling monsters in The Game for weeks.
In the rural mountains of West Virginia, armed with only their rifle and their love for each other, the brothers follow Instructions from the mysterious Game Master. They spend their days searching for survivors, their nights fighting endless hordes of “Bellows”—creatures that roam the dark, roaring for flesh. And at this Game, Michael and Patrick are very good.
But The Game is changing.
The Bellows are evolving.
The Game Master is leading Michael and Patrick to other survivors—survivors who don’t play by the rules.
And the brothers will never be the same.
☆: 1/5 stars – interesting mash-up of current concepts but ultimately fails to deliver.
Review: I was pretty excited for this one, guys, I won’t lie there. “The End Games” sounded like a Western reboot of one of my favorite manga series, “Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)” but with a little more twists and turns flung in. I love anything with a survival game (and zombies), so I thought this book was right up my alley. Sadly, while “End Games” has some really interesting current concepts mashed up together to make something somewhat new, it’s all current concepts nonetheless, and not really new or breathtakingly original. However, those just getting into the apocalyptic/survival genre might enjoy it as I do think it’s a good book to start getting your feet wet within those genres. I just can’t recommend “End Games” for veterans of those genres.
If you want to sum up “End Games” in one pitch, I’d call it “The Walking Dead” meets “Future Diary” (or “The Maze Runner”). That’s pretty much it. And I’m not sure how this book was pitched, but I’m pretty sure those properties were mentioned in some kind of fashion. While I loved the shambling, the actual sense of reality that’s supposed to be with this book, that’s supposed to be chasing these two boys through The End Games themselves just isn’t quite there. The tension that should be driving them forward isn’t there.
Because it’s treated like a video game. Yes, we know that the Game Master gave them access to “the game” before the world fell apart, but at the same time, I was incredibly puzzled by our MC and his brother and their utter failure to grasp that THIS IS THE END OF THE WORLD, GUYS, and that’s kind of important. Perhaps the video game attitude was a way for them to psychologically cope that they may be the last two boys in the world playing this “game”, but I didn’t really see any kind of processing or probing by the MC as to that being a possibility. Instead, it was just all about the game. His brother, too. I saw a bit of protection instinct with his little brother, but otherwise? It just felt like I was watching two kids on their gaming consoles.
Don’t get me wrong – I love gaming. I have nothing against it. But this is supposed to be serious business, apparently, and the boys just don’t seem to care.
When you open a book, you should also get a sense of the world more or less immediately within the first few chapters. What I got was flimsy and used the zombies and the boys as crutches to help hold it up. It was like watching them run about this world, and this world was made out of cardboard forests and stuff. We’re given a brief explanation as to what was going on with the world ending, and the Game Master, but no real solid explanation (at least, to where I read and finally quit because I just couldn’t keep reading) as to how or why the world actually ended. No backstory makes for a flimsy world as well, and the character building…well, I didn’t feel much of that either. No personal backstories other than what dates back to the Game Master approaching them. And that was really disappointing.
At this point, I just expect more from my apocalyptic/dystopian/survivalist YA. That’s what it comes down to, for me, in the end – especially about books like “The End Games”. There’s so much content out there with similar basic ideas, and a lot to choose from. So veterans? You’re probably going to not really dig this title. For newbies, you’ll probably love it, and hey, that’s fine. Different strokes for different folks, and all of that.
But that’s just how I feel about it. “The End Games” is out from HarperTeen May 7, 2013 in North America, so be sure to check it out then and give it a read regardless of this review.