Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Dying Game by Asa Avdic (Review)

Adult Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Publication Date:August 1, 2017
Pages:288 (Hardcover)
Published By:  Penguin Books
Website:Asa Avdic

The Dying Game on Goodreads
My review copy:
Received from the publisher via First to Read program in exchange for my honest review

Where to get:


A masterly locked-room mystery set in a near-future Orwellian state, in which seven people are brought to a remote island to compete in a 48-hour test for a top-secret intelligence position, and one woman must stage her own death.

The year is 2037, and on the tiny island of Isola, seven people have been selected to participate in a 48-hour competition for a top-secret intelligence position with the totalitarian Union of Friendship. One of them is Anna Francis, a workaholic bureaucrat with a nine-year-old daughter she rarely sees and a secret that haunts her.

Anna is not actually a candidate for the position: in fact, she’s the test itself. Her assignment is to stage her own death and then to observe, from her hiding place inside the walls of the house, how the six other candidates react to the news that a murderer is among them: Who will take control? Who will crack under pressure? But then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and the real game begins….

Combining suspense, unexpected twists, psychological gamesmanship, and a sinister dystopian future, The Dying Game conjures a world in which one woman is forced to ask, “Can I save my life by staging my death?”

     I enjoyed reading this book and thought the ending - while frustratingly open and hazy - was one that fit the story. I would have hoped for a more conclusive and satisfying finish, but at the same time, I feel like the ending of The Dying Game was purposefully constructed this way to enhance the feeling of hopelessness and confusion, and in that it succeeded fully. 

     The action of this book takes place in 2037 Stockholm and on a remote Isola Island. It's a near-future totalitarian state that is part of Union of Friendship, and that brings to mind a dystopian society much like the ones described in Orwell's 1984 (absolute government control, manipulation, top secret projects ran in the background, surveillance, government organizations controlling everyone and everything). It's a scary, but completely realistic vision that is quite unsettling.

     The story revolves mainly around Anna Francis, a former foreign aid worker suffering from PTSD, who is asked to play the role of an observer during a top-secret test designed by the government to select one person for the intelligence position (RAN). It's a stress test for the other competitors. Anna is to fake her own death (it is staged as a murder by strangulation), and she then is hiding away at a secret level of the house, where she can observe the reactions of all of the candidates. 

     What's supposed to be a relatively simple 48-hour task quickly turns out to be a much more complicated and dangerous one when, one after another, all of the other contestants begin to vanish into thin air and Anna begins to suspect that something much more sinister is going on.

     The Dying Game, while set in a dystopian world, was more of a political high-stake thriller and a mystery than it was a typical dystopian novel. I'd go as far as to call it psychological thriller. The action was slow-moving and there was a lot of foreshadowing of Anna's character, but not much in terms of the other characters at all. We didn't get a whole lot of details about the society set up either, just the vague and bone-chilling impression of the government being all-powerful, unstoppable, manipulative and highly dangerous. 

     I enjoyed the plot of this book, the sinister atmosphere and the underlying, ever-present tension. It was a good read overall, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes political thrillers, mysteries and not-so-positive endings.

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