The Games by Ted Kosmatka
Review by Daniel Cann
Dr. Silas Williams is the brilliant geneticist in charge of preparing the U.S. entry into the Olympic Gladiator competition, an internationally sanctioned bloodsport with only one rule: no human DNA is permitted in the design of the entrants. But when his creation demonstrates monstrous strength, speed, and most disquietingly intelligence, scientific curiosity gives way to sheer terror.
There are lots of popular themes explored in Kosmatka’s début novel: PED’s (performance enhancing drugs), genetic engineering, violent sports and science.
If you can imagine a future society that actually permits genetically modified creatures to do battle in an arena with no doping and no rules, then you have essentially the background and main thrust for this story. This is an amoral near future, set mainly in the mid twenty first century.
Before the legitimate (and clean) Olympics takes place, countries send their ‘gladiator’ to do combat (to the death), in a grisly tournament watched by 130,000 (in a specially built arena) and by billions worldwide.
This is a decadent, bloodthirsty civilization, much like the last days of Rome. Hey, it sounds familiar, even today!
The central character of Silas Williams is interesting: he is enigmatic and questions his whole part in the ‘Games.’ I enjoyed reading more into his background and wondered what choices he would ultimately make as his conscience began to nag at him.
Dr Vidonia Joao feels like she has been crowbarred into the narrative as the token beautiful love-interest. I found her rather flat and bland, adding nothing to the proceedings other than a touch of glamour. Her relationship with Williams just seems forced and unnecessary.
This is of course gory and violent, as one should expect, but at times, it is also poignant and revealing about the human race in general. Kosmatka expertly sustains the tension and the gnawing doubts of the scientists.
Sadly, the last part feels like a homage to King Kong or Godzilla. That said, the overall effect is satisfying – the science is spot-on, thanks to the authors first-hand experience – and most importantly, the fiction entertains… Not a bad début novel at all.
Published 2012 by Titan
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