Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

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Title:  Endgame: The Calling
Author:  James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton
Published:  October 7, 2014
Series:  Endgame #1
Genre:  YA Contemporary, Science Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source:  ARC

Twelve thousand years ago, they came. They descended from the sky amid smoke and fire, and created humanity and gave us rules to live by. They needed gold and they built our earliest civilizations to mine it for them. When they had what they needed, they left. But before they left, they told us someday they would come back, and when they did, a game would be played. A game that would determine our future.

This is Endgame.

For ten thousand years the lines have existed in secret. The 12 original lines of humanity. Each had to have a Player prepared at all times. They have trained generation after generation after generation. In weapons, languages, history, tactics, disguise assassination. Together the players are everything: strong, kind, ruthless, loyal, smart, stupid, ugly, lustful, mean, fickle, beautiful, calculating, lazy, exuberant, weak. They are good and evil. Like you. Like all.

This is Endgame.

When the game starts, the players will have to find three keys. The keys are somewhere on earth. The only rule of their Endgame is that there are no rules. Whoever finds the keys first wins the game. Endgame: The Calling is about the hunt for the first key. And just as it tells the story of the hunt for a hidden key, written into the book is a puzzle. It invites readers to play their own Endgame and to try to solve the puzzle. Whoever does will open a case filled with gold. Alongside the puzzle will be a revolutionary mobile game built by Google’s Niantic Labs that will allow you to play a real-world version of Endgame where you can join one of the lines and do battle with people around you.

Will exuberance beat strength? Stupidity top kindness? Laziness thwart beauty? Will the winner be good or evil? There is only one way to find out.

Play.

Survive.

Solve.

People of Earth.

Endgame has begun.

*I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, Harper Collins as part of a giveaway. In no way has this influenced my review.*

We start off Endgame: The Calling being introduced to various Players in Endgame. Each Player is a descendant of an ancient bloodline who has been chosen to represent their clan in Endgame and battle for their survival (over all other people in the world).

I thought this was a brilliant plot idea, even with the claims of similarities to The Hunger Games (any perceived similarities were superficial at best). Ancient lines of people have passed down a secret about the end of the world, and it’s up to twelve teenagers to save their race. Unfortunately, the plot concept was where I stopped liking this book, because I was let down by jumpy, short-winded writing that left me wanting a lot more.

The writing style was like a mosaic—each chapter jumped to one or more Players, but eventually they all fit together. Unfortunately, I find this writing style to be frustrating when dealing with more than three characters, as it becomes hard to track who is the “main” protagonist. Frey and Johnson-Shelton didn’t just do more than three—they juggle twelve or thirteen different POVs. It made my head spin, and the characters are so poorly developed that I couldn’t connect with any of them.

The authors also relied on petty stereotypes to try to build the characters. For example, the characters are from all over the world, so they obviously conform to cookie-cutter cultural norms. Shari Chopra, the Harappan Player, is from India and is obviously able to meditate all pain out of her mind when she’s being tortured mercilessly. The Koori player, Alice Ulapala, is from Australia, and her primary characterizations are that she is “large” and that she says “mate” at the end of every sentence. If that’s as deep as you can get, you should probably have stuck with less “main characters.”

Then, when you get into the characters that received the most attention, Sarah Alopay (the Cahokian), her boyfriend Christopher Vanderkamp, and Jago Tlaloc (the Olmec), and their love triangle is sloppily developed and executed. The only reason for Sarah’s attraction to Jago is that they “understand each other,” which would be reasonable, except for the fact that we’ve spent too much of the book jumping around to other characters to have seen that. Then, when Christopher comes back into the picture, she just can’t make up her mind.

Another major beef I had: we never really find out why the world had to end. There’s some tiny line thrown in about how humanity is wasteful and doesn’t appreciate things, blah blah blah. But that seems overdone. Basically, what I’m getting at is…who ate their evil flakes and decided to crap all over planet Earth just because?

I would give Endgame: The Calling two out of five stars at best. To be honest, I just expected more out of the guy behind the Lorien Legacies (James Frey is Pittacus Lore if you didn’t know already). With several of the Players eliminated, I would be interested to read the sequel to see if it’s less jumpy than the initial book in this series, and I would hesitantly recommend this to lovers of YA science fiction, contemporary, and action.

2 star review

If you’re into codes and puzzles, this book has a code you can break, which is pretty cool. I didn’t get to participate because I was reading the ARC, but buy your own copy to try and crack the code for your chance at the prize!

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