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Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: The Calling (Endgame #1)

Release Date: October 7, 2014
Authors: James Frey & Nils Johnson-Shelton
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 477 pages

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.

    

 Disclaimer: I know this review may spark a bit of controversy, so before I even read this book I want to make a small disclaimer about both one of the co-authors and the book packaging company associated with this book. A few months ago it came to light that the book packaging company Full Fathom Five and the Owner and Operator James Frey were doing some shady things to the authors attached to their company. I'm not going to go into all the details as it would take up too much space, but please check out Jillian from Bookish and Nerdy's video on the subject because she can explain things a lot better than I can. Now as to why I decided to read and review this book. Originally I had no intention of reading it, I just wanted to push it to the furthest reaches of my mind and never think of it again. However when I was at BEA I noticed that HarperCollins did a lot of promotion for the book and my walls and resolve began to break. I decided that I didn't want to miss out on a potentially great book just because I don't, to put it lightly, agree with one the authors, and so to appease my conscience I decided to get an ARC of the book, so that I wouldn't support the author financially and to put this disclaimer in front of my review so that those who read it can go into this book, as well as all other James Frey and Full Fathom Five books with both eyes open.

Review:

Characters: I have nothing against ensemble casts in books, in fact most of the time I find that not only do they give the reader a larger picture of what's going on in the world but it can be very entertaining to read from the perspective of not only the protagonist(s) but from the antagonist(s) as well. However, in this book the ensemble cast didn't really work. While this book did have a great and unique cast of characters, there were just way too many. It took me nearly a third of the book to really get a grasp on who the protagonist of this adventure is and even then there are so many gray characters that I'm not sure who our protagonist is eventually going to team up with or who they are really against. It was a valiant effort of an ensemble cast, but it just falls short, if the authors had chosen to just follow a portion of the players instead of all of them and then maybe followed more in the second installment after some of the players in this book were thinned out then it may have seemed less overwhelming.

Romance: The romance was fairly typical of a love triangle. A girl torn between two guys, with one guy showing much more promise to end up with the girl than the other. There was also a separate romance only involving two characters rather than three. However, they detracted from the story more than enhanced it. The romances felt more like an after thought than something that was truly a part of the story. It felt almost as if one or both of the authors came up with the basic premise, maybe even developing it a bit, before adding the romance as a way to appeal to a wider audience. The romances progressed too quickly to really hold much interest and one relationship came of more creepy than sweet. In the end I found myself rolling my eyes at the romance more than being entranced by it.

Writing: While the writing seemed even, and didn't really feel much like two different authors wrote it, it was also evenly cringe worthy. While most of the writing was good enough to get me through the story there were a few things that really bugged me. First off is the repetition, while I understand wanting the readers to know the gravity of the situation your characters are in, but constantly repeating "This is Endgame" became really annoying really quickly. The repetition would also extend to the beginning and ends of certain chapters. There was one chapter specifically that would start like this, "While Character A followed Character B, Character C was headed in a different direction" and end like this, "But little did Character C know that while she was on her own journey, Character A was following Character B." Obviously I'm paraphrasing, but that scenario really did happen and it was extremely shocking when it did because it wasn't a particularly long chapter to begin with. Another thing about the writing was how it was set up. First off, there are no paragraph indents, now I see this as less of a quirk and more of an annoyance because it was so unreadable for me that I had to borrow the audiobook from my library just to finish it, and to make matters worse, there's a certain character with a condition similar to tourettes syndrome, he would involuntarily shiver, blink, and sometimes swear and while that's fine, I don't need to know ever single time it happens especially when I'd rather hear what's happening in the story rather than reading or hearing it through staggered fragments.

World-Building: So, when I first heard about this book, all I could hear was that it sounded like a huge Hunger Games rip-off. Now I just couldn't believe that my favorite publishing company, HarperCollins would willingly publish a rip-off of one of the Hunger Games series. When I read the first synopsis for this book however, it seemed like that was the case, but the more and more I read it, the more I noticed holes in my original logic and thought there might be hope for Harper after all. Lo and behold my final verdict: This isn't a rip off. It may have a few similarities to the first Hunger Games book, but considering these similarities weren't wholly original to the Hunger Games series, I breathed a sigh of relief. This book is about a world-wide game, involving 12 bloodlines, to find three special keys, the player that comes back with all three keys will win the salvation of their entire line. Other than that there are no rules. I really liked the world wide aspect of this book and that each player came from a different part of the world made for a great diversity to the rather large cast of characters.

Predictability: The surprises in this book were actually quite surprising, which sounds redundant I know, but it's true. While there were certain things that were easily predictable I was shocked when certain things happened that I either wasn't suspecting or that happened in a different way than I was suspecting. There's a pretty big twist towards the end, that really redefines where things are going to go in the future of the series. I will say though that the most surprising thing about this book was the body count, I expected a few of the players to die, but more ended up dying than I thought would have.

Ending: The ending was fairly solid, the final confrontation was a bit too drawn out on one moment that I really would have wished had gone faster because it involved a couple characters that I didn't really like and the authors were trying to pull at emotions that just weren't there for me. The very end, or really the last chapter of the book ends in a rather interesting cliffhanger that really sets the stage for the next installment in the series.

Rating:


The book was okay and while that rating is my completely unbiased opinion, I still do not condone the things that James Frey does to his writers at Full Fathom Five. Will I continue the series, probably not, but at the same time I don't regret reading it.

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