THE NEVER GAME
You’re left with five items.
A watch, a nail file, a lighter, a pen and a bottle of water.
You’ve been abandoned. Escape if you can. Or die with dignity.
Characters & their development: 4.5
Personal enjoyment: 4
-overall well done
-it will date quickly
A young woman has gone missing in Silicon Valley and her father has hired Colter Shaw to find her. The son of a survivalist family, Shaw is an expert tracker. Now he makes a living as a “reward seeker,” traveling the country to help police solve crimes and private citizens locate missing persons. But what seems a simple investigation quickly thrusts him into the dark heart of America’s tech hub and the cutthroat billion-dollar video-gaming industry.
When another victim is kidnapped, the clues point to one video game with a troubled past–The Whispering Man. In that game, the player has to survive after being abandoned in an inhospitable setting with five random objects. Is a madman bringing the game to life?
Shaw finds himself caught in a cat-and-mouse game, risking his own life to save the victims even as he pursues the kidnapper across both Silicon Valley and the dark ‘net. Encountering eccentric game designers, trigger-happy gamers and ruthless tech titans, he soon learns that he isn’t the only one on the hunt: someone is on his trail and closing fast.
The Never Game follows a new main character from Jeffrey Deaver and we’re introduced to him in an explosive way. Colter Show was brought up on a ranch called ‘The Compound’ with his survivalist family. His siblings were his only friends, his mother was his angel and his father a genius. But as his fathers grip on reality slips, things start to unfold. This past lead Colter Shaw to travel across America, trying to find out where his older brother has gone, and saving people along the way. On his way back to the compound to visit his mother, Colter learns about a man who has put out a reward for his missing daughter. After finding her alive, things start to spiral out of control as Colter and the police realize there is a killer on the lose.
Personally, my favourite part of this novel is how it avoids three of the most tired tropes in crime novels. Firstly, it doesn’t kill off the black lesbian side character (what, it DOESN’T? I know, I know, it’s insane that you can keep them alive!) Secondly, the main character isn’t mentally ill (somebody give this man an award, because apparently other thriller writers can’t seem to understand this) and it ALSO avoids the trope of the main character falling into bed with an attractive woman who ends up being related to the crime (GrindrGirl88 is free to troll the fourms and twitch) I know it might not seem overwhelming, but when almost every crime novel I’ve read recently falls into one of these tropes, it’s a damn miracle to see something different.
Also, that twist actually got me. I bow down to you Jeffrey, honestly. He had us going after a killer, and while if I thought about it, I would have figured there would be a twist, I was so hooked by that point that I didn’t even think about it. And then the twist is revealed beautifully. It actually made me stop and reread the sentence. It wasn’t some big amazing twist, but he kept it perfectly hidden from us the whole time.
Not to mention the reason for killing. Money and helping Politics? That is something I can get behind because it really happens. It was refreshing to see that it wasn’t someone who was obsessed with their lover or just mentally unstable. No it was just a greedy assh*le.
However, it’s time to talk about the meh. First of all, while I loved Maddie for the fact that she is a gamer girl, the romance with her was not all that necessary. She could have been left as a side character that helped, rather than someone Colter fell into bed with and then turned around and suspected. I did enjoy her at the end though. She stood up for herself and didn’t back down on her beliefs, even when Colter apologized, she said they could stay friends but nothing more, I admire that.
There’s only two real gripes I have with this novel. The first is this is going to date badly and quickly. While the killers pretend to be killing based off a game, we see Colter go to a gaming convention not unlike E3 or PAX, and there he talks about seeing gamers playing fortnite and how casual mobile gamers play candy crush. While they’re true facts now, as a gamer I can say they wont be in a few years time, most games fade from the limelight within five years. After that, someones going to read this and someone WILL put it down because “Granddad’s talking about that dumb game he played when he was a kid again”
My second issue, is this does kind of seem like a “hey look I’m hip with the kids” and coming from a sixty five year old male, it’s just, not working. If I was going to include gaming elements, I’d do it on a much smaller scale. This really seemed like he had sat down and researched about gaming, then shoved every bit of gaming knowledge he acquired into the novel to impress others. It might impress a non gamer, hell it might teach them something. But at least for me as a gamer, it was just, pointless basic fuzz. The static on a TV. It felt like it was just filling the pages and not giving anything to the novel. I feel like even with Colter going to the convention, more could have been left out as it turned out to be just a vaguely important scene.
Either way, I was unimpressed with the gaming elements, but I loved the rest of this novel. I will definitely be keeping an eye on Jeffrey’s works, especially if he writes something else with Colter Shaw as the ending left lose ends just waiting to be tied up.
I would recommend this to people who want an easy to read crime thriller.