The Never Game (Review) // An intriguing concept, unique main character, a series that I’ll be excited about for awhile

From the bestselling and award-winning master of suspense, the first novel in a thrilling new series! 

Colter Shaw is an itinerate “reward-seeker,” traveling the country to help police solve crimes and private citizens locate missing persons. When he learns of a reward for a missing college student in Silicon Valley, he takes the job. The investigation quickly thrusts him into the dark heart of Silicon Valley and the cutthroat billion-dollar video gaming industry–and then a second kidnapping happens…and this victim turns up dead. The clues soon point to one video game, The Never Game, in which the player has to survive after being left abandoned. Is a madman bringing that game to life? If so, Shaw has to stop him before he strikes again…and before he figures out that Shaw is on his trail.

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The Never Game combines mystery and video games with a compelling main character that is nothing if not unconventional. Colter Shaw, a survivalist ‘reward seeker’ taught by his parents and raised in the wilderness. His search leads him to Silicon Valley, California, where a nineteen year old student has gone missing. However, it soon becomes clear that this is much more than a missing persons case, or a random kidnapping. When a blogger is kidnapped it seems there is an ulterior motive to this series of crimes. Drawn into the world of corporations and hidden secrets, Colter must figure out what’s really going on and find the perpetrator before it’s too late…

I’m trying to avoid getting into too many new mystery series as I’m constantly behind anyways, but I don’t regret picking up this one at all. Uh, hello, Jeffery Deaver, where’s book two at? While containing the usual elements of a mystery novel, The Never Game is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Colter Shaw is a masterfully constructed main character with a unique background, and his own past is a mystery in itself that is slowly unravelled as the book progresses. There is just something about this book that makes me constantly want to keep reading!

The construct of setting up the mystery within a video game universe reminded me of Nerve, by Jeanne Ryan; but the way it’s done here is more subtle and minimalistic, which complemented the plot and storyline well. Jeffery Deaver does an outstanding job with misdirection as well, every time a new suspect comes into view you are encouraged to think they’re guilty for just long enough that you believe it, before the book speeds off in a completely new direction. The trail of suspects seemed to form a circle of tunnels, yet every tunnel you headed down was a dead end. I often wondered, ‘where is he going with this’, a question that wouldn’t become clear until much later on. 

I think a large part of my enjoyment of this book comes from being inside Colter’s head. He’s a very logical thinker, and I took an instant liking to him almost immediately. And his backstory, paired with the current mysteries; I really want to find out more about Margot and Braxton! Detective LaDonna Standish is also a great contribution to the book, the beginning really highlights her contrast with her then-partner Detective Dan Wiley, which also served as a mini plot point. I found it extremely amusing every time Colter had a secret plan that we weren’t told about, and his calm in the awkward situations with game company heads that he seemed to keep getting into.

In all honesty I don’t really have much more to say about this book other than that y’all should go and read it. Awesome characters, awesome plot, awesome concept… Setting the book in Silicon Valley and having game company executives be such a part of the book also had a large impact, there was a message that the author was trying to get across here. The video game industry is a rapidly developing field, and it definitely brings questions about things such as privacy and health. I’m optimistic about the sequel, hopefully some more of Colter’s mysteries will be cracked. Until then, I’ll just sit here marvelling at the genius of The Never Game.

Beginning/Ending: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 5/5

~I received a copy from HarperCollins NZ and willingly reviewed it~

What’s a book you’ve read with a really interesting and unique main character? Do you like long series?

 Xoxo, Cas

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