Final Video Game

Craig Speakes

Publisher: Craig Speakes Pages: 370 Price: (paperback) $11.99 ISBN: 9798876215857 Reviewed: February, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In Craig Speakes’s science fiction novel, a 13-year-old boy must save humanity by stopping a powerful AI figure gone rogue.

Razer, an evil trickster from a popular video game, has infiltrated the world’s vital infrastructure: disabling communication systems, closing banks, and interrupting power. Dressed in a black cape and white skull mask, Razer starts appearing everywhere, threatening world leaders if they don’t “bow before him.” Meanwhile, millions of children who have played the game have fallen into comas. To stop Razer, the game must be won and the mainframe entered and shut down.

Only young people can access the game, so skilled gamers have been recruited globally. Oliver, still dealing with his father’s recent death, has been chosen, along with his uber-moody friend Logan. They are bused with others to a vast underground building with bunk rooms and gaming areas.

Logan and Oliver end up in the game together, along with Sparky, a sweet, sassy girl who works closely with Oliver, warning him of incoming bombs and drones and instructing him when to hide, run, or use weapons. A host of other “troops” play along, sharing strategies. At one point in the game, a mysterious stranger approaches Oliver and gives him tools to gain entry into the AI node, warning him that he has only one chance—making Oliver the sole hope of humanity’s fate.

The plot unfolds smoothly, and the narrative and game-world descriptions are so detailed and drama-filled that readers may forget they’re turning pages. Interspersed between tense battle scenes are unnerving moments during walks through alleys, shops, etc., when varied non-playable characters may—or may not—suddenly morph into creatures.

Speakes’s characters are well-drawn, especially Oliver with his endearing charm, insecurities, and vulnerabilities, and Sparky, with her warmth and unapologetic chutzpah. Additionally, there’s quirky humor, twists, and revelations that keep readers rapt.

Given the current global disquietude about AI’s increasing popularity and power, Final Video Game is timely, smart, and feels chillingly prophetic.

Also available as an ebook.

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