Review – “The Game” by Heather Kilough-Walden

Review – “The Game” by Heather Kilough-Walden

I was perusing the Kindle store last week, and downloaded a few sample chapters for books that looked interesting.  It was an eclectic mix of titles – that’s one of the things I like most about the Kindle – the ability to sample a wide range of titles to try and find something new and interesting.  I had just finished my last book, and needed something new to read, so I gave the first chapter of “The Game” a chance.  I was intrigued by what I read, and the entire book was only $1, so I thought – “why not?” – and downloaded the title.  Little did I know that I had embarked upon my first Romance novel.

At its core, this is the story of a love triangle between three participants in “the Game”.  This game has been played for thousands of years and is the only thing keeping the world in balance, or so the participants are led to believe.  In the story, the three main players – Victor, Victoria, and Max – must not only work out their relationships with each other, they must decide if they will accept their place in “the Game”, and then deal with the repercussions of those decisions.

There are pieces of a Science Fiction novel here – transporters, computers, robots. etc.  There are pieces of a classic Fantasy novel here – swords, gods, medieval taverns, etc.  There are pieces of Romance novel here – longing, desire, and some surprisingly graphic sex scenes.  You have all of the components of what could be an entertaining book, and therein lies the ultimate problem for me – you have ALL of them.

This book doesn’t know what it wants to be.  Killough-Walden tries to provide a sweeping epic to under gird the romantic narrative. On the surface, it works – much like the sets on a Hollywood film.  That surface is what drew me in and, quite frankly, sustained me for the entire book.  Much like those film sets, however – when you look deeper at the book you find that some of the substance that you want is missing.  There was no exploration of the true motivation behind the Game’s creation.  There was no discussion on how the Gamers themselves were chosen or trained.  There was no look at how the Game itself was played.  The next layer that I was looking for, the one that would have made me a fan of the story, was missing.

So, where does the book land – Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Romance?  It lands firmly in the Romance category. How did I determine that, you may ask?  Here’s a helpful tip.  One of the nice things about the Kindle is that you can search the text for certain words.  If you download this book, do a search for the word “taut” – (adj. – not loose or flabby).  You’ll find that it’s used eleven times in the story – all to describe various body parts on the main characters.  Once you’ve used “taut” more than twice like that in a story, you’ve officially crossed over in to “Romance” status.  That’s not a criticism, it’s just simple math.

That’s not to say that the book was without merit.  As I said, it grabbed me with the first chapter, and a never found myself bored when reading it.  It was a quick, easy read, and well worth the $1.00 that I paid for it.  I just wanted more.  I wanted it to feel like it was a science fiction/fantasy novel in it’s own right – not just a romance novel with a science fiction/fantasy theme.  I believe, based on the other titles available from Killogh-Walden here on Amazon, that a Romance novel was her intention.

I freely admit that I am not the target demo for this novel.  Did my lack of enthusiasm for the Romance genre influence my feelings here?  I would be lying if I said it didn’t on some level – I am, after all, human.  Having said that, I tried very hard to rate this just on it’s merits as a novel – regardless of the genre.  On that account – I didn’t love it, nor did I hate it.  Its central premise was intriguing, but I didn’t feel that it was executed as well as it could have been.  Still, I enjoyed the diversion that it provided me for a few days, and as I said before – it was well worth the $1 that I paid for it.  If you are looking for a Romance novel, this might be your cup of tea.  If you are looking for more traditional Science Fiction or Fantasy, you might want to look elsewhere.

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