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The Games by Ted Kosmatka

01/04/2012. Contributed by Aidan Fortune

Buy The Games in the USA - or Buy The Games in the UK

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pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 360 page hardback. Price: $25.00 (US), $29.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-52661-8.

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What a timely release for a novel like ‘The Games’ by Ted Kosmatka’ is. With the hype for this summer’s Olympic Games about to reach fever pitch in the UK, the story of a blood sport category which countries genetically engineer contestants for is extremely topical and thought-provoking.

Set in at an undetermined point in the future, countries spend billions on engineering the perfect fighting machine in order to obtain glory at the Gladiator event with the only rule being human DNA is not allowed to be used.

For the past three Olympic Games, the USA have taken home gold in the event and under pressure to keep up this winning streak, the top brass utilises a super-computer to create the ultimate fighting machine. However, all does not go to plan and the creature, nicknamed Felix, is a bit too good at what it does and manages to escape. It’s left to geneticist Silas Williams and the predictably beautiful xenobiologist Vidonia João to capture the creature.

Kosmatka owes a lot to Michael Crichton with ‘The Games’, as it echoes ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Westworld’. He also manages to recreate the thrilling pace of Crichton that is sometimes overlooked. In the Silas portions of the book, there isn’t a wasted moment. It’s obvious what is going to happen to the creature so to Kosmatka’s credit, he doesn’t hang around and gets on with the show quickly.

Unfortunately, the author doesn’t tie in the novel’s other strand quite as well. Evan Chandler who designed the super-computer responsible for designing the creature’s DNA is a potentially intriguing character but just gets a little bit lost in the mix and takes away from the pace of the main arc.

This is Kosmatka’s first novel following some big short-story success. He’s also plying his trade as a video games writer which shows through in this novel. The story is simple, moves at a decent pace and gives you a hero to root for. Take out the distracting secondary story arc and you’ve got yourself a great thriller. With luck, Kosmatka will work on this if he writes another novel as it would be something I’d definitely pick up. One or two questions remain though, I’d love to know what LOCOG thinks of the Olympics being associated with blood sports and when will we see a Gladiator event at the Games.

Aidan Fortune

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