Book club questions for The God Game by Danny Tobey focuses on twists in the story set in the world of Artificial Intelligence. There will be spoilers so be sure to check out the spoiler-free review first for my thoughts.
They call themselves the Vindicators. Targeted by bullies and pressured by parents, these geeks and gamers rule the computer lab at Turner High School. Wealthy bad boy Peter makes and breaks rules. Vanhi is a punk bassist at odds with her heritage. Kenny’s creativity is stifled by a religious home life. Insecure and temperamental, Alex is an outcast among the outcasts. And Charlie, the leader they all depend on, is reeling from the death of his mother, consumed with reckless fury.
They each receive an invitation to play The God Game. Created by dark-web coders and maintained by underground hackers, the video game is controlled by a mysterious artificial intelligence that believes it is God. Obey the almighty A.I. and be rewarded. Defiance is punished. Through their phone screens and high-tech glasses, Charlie and his friends see and interact with a fantasy world superimposed over reality. The quests they undertake on behalf of “God” seem harmless at first, but soon the tasks have them questioning and sacrificing their own morality.
High school tormentors get their comeuppance. Parents and teachers are exposed a hypocrites. And the Vindicators’ behavior becomes more selfish and self-destructive as they compete against one another for prizes each believes will rescue them from their adolescent existence. But everything they do is being recorded. Hooded and masked thugs are stalking and attacking them. “God” threatens to expose their secrets if they attempt to quit the game. And losing the game means losing their lives.
Book Club Questions for The God Game
- Let’s discuss why each of the five teenagers—Peter, Charlie, Kenny, Vanhi and Alex—all decide to play the God Game. If you were in their position, do you think you would have played the game as well?
- Charlie is lost after his mother passed away and his dad is somewhat absent. How did this huge loss and not fully dealing with grief impact his decision making in the book?
- This one leans on stereotypes that the coders are the dorky kids with hearts of gold (for the most part) and the athletes are abusive bullies. What do you think about these stereotypes? Do you think if the five weren’t bullied, would they have even joined this game?
- What did you think about all the details of Artificial Intelligence, coding and other tech talk? Were you engaged with it? Do you think something like this game could actually happen?
- Charlie is the clear protagonist—so would you say that Peter is the antagonist all along? Did you trust Peter or did you have suspicions about him?
- So there’s much talk about religion, especially the Old Testament, what bigger point do you think the author was trying to say by connecting religion with technology?
- Beyond the game was the underlying notion of how much pressure teenagers are under these days—especially when it comes to expectations for college and beyond. Do you think technology makes things easier or harder for teenagers?
- What did you think about the climax and the ending? In what ways did the characters grow from the beginning of the book until the end?
- What are some of the key themes that stuck out to you?
- Let’s discuss where the story could go in a potential sequel.
What to Read Next
OK, book friends, I don’t read sci-fi but I do read thrillers and some time traveler stories. So here’s some other recommendations!
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
The story follows Jessica Farris, a struggling makeup artist in NYC. On a whim, she agrees to be a test subject in a psychological study about ethics and morality. But as the study moves from the exam room to the real world, the line between what is real and what is one of Dr. Shields’s experiments blurs. Dr. Shields perfect image is well-crafted and while at first it seems she has Jessica’s best interests at heart, it starts to become apparent that lines are being crossed. Caught in a web of attraction, deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Tom Hazard has just moved back to London, his old home, to settle down and become a high school history teacher. And on his first day at school, he meets a captivating French teacher at his school who seems fascinated by him. But Tom has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
Unfortunately for Tom, the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: Never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.