Book title: The Calling (Endgame #1)
Author: James Frey, Nils Johnson-Shelton
Hello again! This review is about a book that I read recently, this summer, a book I wanted to read for a very long time, firstly because one of my very good friends (and reading companion) was reading it some time ago and she made me all curious about it when we were chatting and secondly because I have heard about the puzzle/treasure-hunt hidden in the pages of this book and the fact that there is a cash prize once the first person manages to solve it. I found this concept very appealing, and somehow I felt that hiding clues in a book and urging your readers to find them is like you’re giving them an opportunity to become more involved in the book and somehow live a little bit of what the main characters of this book are living (which totally applies to this book). Thus, I decided to embark on this adventure called Endgame.
The story itself is actually quite simple. There are 12 players belonging to 12 different lines (each line has its own name, sign and history, which makes it even more interesting) of humankind (some sort of ancient tribes) in a game that takes place just before the end of the world, and the player who manages to win the game is the one whose line survives the apocalypse. The game is managed and supervised by those who created us, the Anunnaki; they are the ones who helped us build all our civilization, those who decided when to push the button and bring humanity back to square one and also those who determine when the game takes place and what the rules are. The 12 players are between 13 and 20 years old, and they have been trained all their life (short life in some cases) for the purpose of winning Endgame and for the survival of their line.
Slowly, throughout the book, each one of the characters is presented and even from the first pages you will most likely begin to have a favourite character or two. As we follow their journey we find out that Endgame actually consists of finding 3 keys, each of them hidden in some special corner of Earth and for each of them some clues will be offered, but as you will see the clues can differ from player to player. The first key that the players must discover is Earth Key and is the object around which the plot of this first volume of the series is built around. The book shows us the players’ journey while trying to obtain the key first and have an advantage over other players; unfortunately things don’t go as smoothly as planned and there are always characters which emerge and change the fate of things or just plot-twists that you don’t always see coming.
“Enemies are a given. Friends are not.”
A little bit about the personal opinions now… It is very interesting to see the psychology behind each of the 12 characters. Unfortunately, in this first volume not all the characters were equally well-developed, this leading to the reader liking someone more just because maybe someone else wasn’t given enough space and time to grow in this book and will do so in the next one maybe. This was a disadvantage from my point of view, but I can also understand that it is hard to develop equally 12 characters and give them all subtle nuances. The plot is also also exciting because when you come to think about it our characters are basically children or teenagers that have been trained their whole life to survive a pretty murderous game and saving their line (a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, if you ask me); and there will always be a moment in the book when their childish/teenager nature will surface and despite their maturity they will make reckless choices.
For me, there are two notable characters which I can’t help mentioning. The first one is Hilal, who caught my eye right from the start because in the midst of the beginning of Endgame he was the only one who talked about peace as an alternative and urged the others to sit for a moment and think about everything that was about to start before going to search for Earth Key. For me it seems that he balances the game and he seems to be the wisest player around; he is also one of those characters who surpass their own condition and manage to rise above. Another honorable mention is Chiyoko, a girl who is very present through this first book and I think as far as characters go she is very well-built and you can easily have a soft spot for her (I will let you discover more about these characters by yourself).
“My secret is that I choose to be the person that I want to be That I don’t believe in destiny or predetermination, but in choice, and that each of us chooses to be the person we are. Whatever you want to be you can be, whatever you want to do you can do, wherever you want to go you can go. The world, and the life ahead, is ours for the taking. The future is unwritten, and you can make it whatever you want it to be.”
What I’m trying to illustrate is the fact that the 12 characters, even though they have the same purpose, are very different and the way they grew up, the influences of their families or of their lines is very obvious and reflects in their strategy (this is again, another interesting point in this book – a lot of psychological stuff and also some strategy which gives a characteristic intensity to the story). This is one of the things that makes this book an easy read, but at the same time manages to keep you up all night turning page after page in order to find out if your favourite character is going to make it or not. It is very easy to get attached to one of them, but I think it is also a little bit predictable because some characters are more developed than others.
Another fascinating aspect is the way the relationships between the players evolve and how all sorts of connections seem to be made, starting from admiration to something similar to friendship and some actual romance. The whole book has a special atmosphere even if the subject itself isn’t very complicated (and it’s actually quite a common one in the YA fiction), but I believe Frey is able to build the tension up really nicely through his characters and the way they interact with each other and how they manage this whole apocalypse situation.
I really enjoyed this book, even if it is quite an easy read (you can finish it in a couple of hours) and maybe the idea is not the most original ever but I still decided to give it 4 stars : because the action is nicely built, there are some notably awesome characters, it’s definitely a page turner and even if some parts are predictable there is still a lot of unknown stuff going on there. I would recommend it if you’re into young-adult literature and also if you’re a fan of dystopia, but I believe that anyone can actually read this book and enjoy it and it is a nice break from really complicated literature.
Overall rating: 4 stars
Goodreads link: The Calling
*A short comment on how I rate the books: I thought long and hard how to actually phrase this and bring the thoughts from my head onto the virtual paper… The point is that I realized while giving stars to books that my way of rating book is a very subjective one (as is everybody else’s I guess) and is based on previous experiences with book from the same genre (or the lack of experience), on my mood and many other factors that are not always closely related to the book I’m reading. One of the important aspects I take into consideration when giving a rating or another is the way the book made me feel, another one is the genre: I try to separate books into genre and rate them accordingly – so, I think, the 4 stars I would give to a YA book are not the same 4 stars that I would probably give to a fantasy book (the fantasy one is usually much more complex and well-built and so on), but that 4 stars YA book is probably better than others YA books I have read or just made me feel ok and excited all through the book. I am also trying to be rational about it and rate the manner of writing (how easily the author writes, the language he/she uses, how much of his/her message gets through t me), the originality of the story, the development of the characters and other important aspects which I believe important for a good story. Nevertheless, I wanted to underline the fact that all reviews and ratings are actually subjective and that because literature is an art there is no right way – there will always be book which we enjoy more and the others maybe won’t understand, but that’s not the point, the point is what those books made us see and what they mean for us. Have fun reading! 🙂