Review of The Games by Ted Kosmatka
In the not too distant future it seems that UFC joins any blood sport Michael Vick once enjoyed as being too violent and uncouth. But the masses still crave combat, and what arises is an internationally sanctioned event wherein genetically engineered creatures vie for supremacy. The one design rule: No human DNA. These games prove so popular they become an Olympic event, with the prestige of individual nations at stake.
The United States, led by chief geneticist Silas Williams, have never failed to obtain the gold medal. Other countries however, are starting to catch up. America cannot afford to lose, so Williams’ team turns to a new super-advanced computer to create their gladiator. The result is both breathtaking and terrifying. The creature grows quickly, is astonishingly swift and powerful, and worst of all, plainly intelligent. Silas and the other biologists cannot even determine what the computer has done to create such a beast, or figure out how it functions. What becomes apparent, despite Silas’ increasingly strident warnings, is this new gladiator is the ultimate killing machine.
Of course no one listens to Silas’ prophecies of doom, and all hell breaks loose at the Olympics. That the American gladiator is on the loose eating people and running through the streets is bad enough. But when Silas learns the computer had an agenda all its own the real danger becomes apparent: the ultimate killing machine can reproduce.
The Games is Kosmatka’s first full length novel, and a pretty good effort. In the past 20 years there’s been a lot of “monster runs amuck” fiction, and with a few twists that’s really all this is. The beast is an oddly jointed, heavily armed, winged jet black creaturesomewhat bigger than a man. While not exactly a fitting description, I was frequently reminded of a malevolent “Toothless,” the black dragon from How to Train Your Dragon. Scenes with the beast are the best part of the book, both for the action frequently involved and the chills Kosmatka is often able to generate. Several times the creature does something that quietly but assuredly lets you know that, “When I get out, I am gonna mess you up.”
If only the rest of the book were that enjoyable. When the beast isn’t around I found the narrative dragged severely. The various characters either had to interact with the creature or discuss it. Otherwise I found my interest waning and refocusing on my daughter’s Little Einsteins program. Not that anything here is terrible, I’ve just read better versions more than once. The ending is in many ways representative of the whole book, pretty good but not all I might have hoped for.
Overall Kosmatka has here a perfectly acceptable techno/sci-fi novel. The superlatives lauded on it are rather excessive, but this a fun read for anyone who likes a good critter novel (or movie, for that matter). If you’re looking for the best “critters run amuck,” you’ll have to go elsewhere, namely Preston and Child’s thrill ride Relic or Dan Simmons’ magnificently chilling Terror.
Code 451 Rating: 6 (Good Read)
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