By Anders de la Motte
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Henrik Pettersson, mercifully nicknamed "HP", finds a cell phone on a commuter train. When he turns it on, the text addresses him by name. At first he thinks his friends are playing an elaborate prank on him. But as he follows the instructions, he realizes he is competing in a game where the participants do various tasks, some illegal, for points and cash. At first the tasks seem mildly mischievous but soon they increase to illegal and harmful activities. It becomes clear that the "game" has a more sinister agenda yet HP has become addicted to the fame and adrenaline derived from the game.
Our modern society is fascinated by conspiracies If there is none, we make one up. I think this is partially due to the instant delivery of news through the media and the ease of connections that we perceive from the internet. Everything is connected so there must be hidden connections that control our world. Or so we think.
I think de la Motte picks up on something similar in this riveting novel. While HP gets off on the attention that he receives from the game, his actions have consequences that he can't yet comprehend. Just how far the game affects others and who the Game Master is becomes part of the mystery of this tale. It's an exhilarating quest and soon HP, and the reader, are looking for accomplices everywhere. HP's sister, who works in police security, also becomes inadvertently involved in her brother's game and she has a little baggage of her own.
This first book of the trilogy is fast paced and full of surprises. HP at first is a somewhat unsympathetic slacker but as we get to know him and his sister we understand them and see their strengths. His sister is more mature but she has issues with her past that come into play. The interaction between the two main characters is part of what makes this suspense story so interesting.
I did find some areas that were troubling if minor. Some of the sentences seem stiff and awkward as were some strange wordings that may be due to the different cultures. For example "answering phone" rather than "answering machine". I suspect this may have more to do with the translator than the author. Also, the author alternates the viewpoint of the narrative from HP to his sister Rebecca quite rapidly, often in the middle of an action scene. It a bit disorienting. Not every scene needs to end with a cliff hanger.
But overall these issues do not take away from the fun of this novel. I found it a suspenseful and intelligent read. But how much did I really like it? Let's put it this way. I'm starting the second book Buzz as soon as I finish writing this review.
Method Acquired: Netgalley