by Damien Broderick
Review by Sam Lubell
Thunder's Mouth Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1560256702
Date: 10 April, 2005 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Godplayers reads like Zelazny?s Amber series filtered through the mind of Philip K. Dick, if Dick were a paranoid physicist, instead of just paranoid. Unfortunately, too much of the book is setup and the payoff at the end is very confusing in a metaphysical kind of way. The structure of the book takes a while to figure out ? the main character is the viewpoint for every other chapter while the other chapters are from many different viewpoints and sometimes of characters that have not yet been introduced in the main narrative.
The main character, August Seebeck, is visiting his aunt when Godplayers begins. When he goes to take a shower, his aunt calmly informs him that he cannot, since there?s a corpse in that bathroom, a fresh one every week. August reluctantly concludes that his aunt, who works as a phone psychic, has become delusional. But when he uses the bathroom he is surprised by two women bringing a corpse indoors through the bathroom window. One of them has hieroglyphs on her foot just the same as August?s. They tell him that the world is not as it seems and then zap him with a memory eraser. But the ray does not work on him and when his aunt mysteriously disappears, August figures out how to use the window to visit another world that is one of many the Players of the Contest of Worlds can access. He discovers that his real family are all Players and that he has an important role in the Contest.
But after that most of the book is traveling instantaneously from one world to another, having conversations that get interrupted or diverted right when everything is about to be revealed. While these are interesting conversations, one grows impatient waiting for the actual story. Even when things do happen, such as when August acquires a secret x-caliber weapon or he is attacked by the never-fully-explained enemy, the action is dismissed quickly and the characters go back to talking.
Now, some discussion is needed to detail such a complex background, since the field has grown too sophisticated for the quick ?As you know Bob? approach popular in early SF. But readers should be able to expect more from a book than just a set-up that leaves them feeling empty. Perhaps Broderick was trying to get across a feeling of ennui, that the characters had been engaged in this contest for so long that they are just playing their role without much urgency. Or perhaps this is book one in a series.
This is not to say that Godplayers is a bad book--far from it. For the first half I was quite entertained and there are many elements of interest here. There?s a great scene in which some missionaries interrupt a conversation, so the characters open up a gateway to a hell world and send them there. Another character, a sentient A.I. calmly confesses to murdering all the people on its planet. And constant references to the Matrix movie and other science fiction rings very true for that is exactly what we SF fans would think under these circumstances.
If the narrative had provided more of a real explanation, if things were clearer to the reader, and if it had moved on after that explanation, Godplayers would be a much better book. But as it was, it left me with more questions than answers. If there is a sequel, I would read it in the hopes of finding these answers. But otherwise, I can only recommend this to readers who like puzzles that are never solved.