Monday, July 4, 2011

Invitation to the Game

The thing about this book is there are almost no front cover images from the various versions that don't contradict the story in some way. That can be very annoying. Sorry, just saying.

Update: Turns out this novel was re-released in 2010 under the title The Game, and it actually has a cool cover image. You can check it out here.

For me, Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes is a classic. I absolutely loved it the first time I read it several years ago, and this time I loved it as well. I actually reviewed this book on a past blog when I read it the first time. If you weren't around when I started this blog (shame on you!), the story of what happened to that blog can be found here. This is just a little bit random, but looking back, my writing skills have really increased in just nine or ten months.

I was first introduced to Invitation to the Game by my librarian. I instantly knew it wouldn't be a "regular" teen science fiction novel, because, well, my librarian introduced it to me! This is the librarian that doesn't really want any books about fishing in the library but has an entire section on quilting. She is definitely not a science fiction fan.

But, alas, she actually recommended the book. I believe she said it was the only science fiction book that she liked. I was a little unsure when I started reading it, but after a short time I realized that it really was . . . you know, cool!

In the future, 2154 to be exact, the world is practically run by machines. (Sound familiar? At first it seems like a typical science fiction story setting.) Thousands of occupations that were once filled by human beings are now filled by robots. This leaves thousands, probably millions across the world, of people unemployed, and they're pretty much dumped in a designated area (DA for short) and told to stay there.

A sixteen-year-old girl named Lisse, fresh out of school, fails to land a job, as does seven of her friends (which she's shocked about, since they're all such bright students). They are driven to a city (it never specifies which) and let off in their designated area. They are given just enough government credits to survive every month, and are told that if they ever leave their DA, the Thought Police will track them down in mere moments.

That's how Invitation to the Game starts out: a group of teens trying to survive in a dark and savage world. I believe if the author had spent more time exploring this world and all of the interesting pieces of future culture, then the book would've been a lot better, but it was written over twenty years ago, so I doubt I can change her mind.

The group actually fares well for a while, until in a night bar they heard of something called 'The Game', and it perked their interest. On a few occasional nights since then they go to taverns and such and ask about this 'Game' that has capital letters. Eventually they find something about it, but not in any of those dirty, scum-infested bars.

The Game is a treasure hunt. You're given clues every time you play, and the clues are all for a prize in the end, which nobody knows what it is. Only those invited can participate. It sounds sort of weird and maybe a bit boring, but the teens continue looking for information about it.

And then they get invited to it. They don't know how, or why, or even if they should accept or not. Soon they find it is amazing beyond what they had imagined before.

I'll stop the story synopsis at that point, as I don't want to tell you the entire story. Whether or not I made it sound great or horrible, I loved the book both times I read it. It's full of adventure, and jam-packed with various emotions such as intrigue, depression, joy, hatred, triumph, and realization that in the end it can all work out if you work together (the long version of saying "teamwork").

The plot was great, and I didn't really see the ending twist coming (though I'm the type of person who doesn't usually see twists coming). I've fallen in love with the author's portrayal of the future (though I certainly hope our future doesn't turn out that way), and if there were other books that take place in the same universe, I'd read them for sure.

Monica Hughes is a great author. There are many things that I think she could have done better, but altogether it was a spectacular novel. I'd recommend it to people at any age.

Reuben Horst

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