Review: The End Games

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The End GamesThe End Games by T. Michael Martin
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 7, 2013
Genres: Horror, Post-Apocalyptic
Pages: 369
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars

It happened on Halloween.

The world ended.

And a dangerous Game brought it back to life.

Seventeen-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have been battling monsters in The Game for weeks.

In the rural mountains of West Virginia, armed with only their rifle and their love for each other, the brothers follow Instructions from the mysterious Game Master. They spend their days searching for survivors, their nights fighting endless hordes of “Bellows”—creatures that roam the dark, roaring for flesh. And at this Game, Michael and Patrick are very good.

But The Game is changing.

The Bellows are evolving.

The Game Master is leading Michael and Patrick to other survivors—survivors who don’t play by the rules.

And the brothers will never be the same.

T. Michael Martin’s debut novel is a transcendent thriller filled with electrifying action, searing emotional insight, and unexpected romance.

Bear with me, please, because The End Games is one of those novels with a twist fairly early on that makes reviewing the book without spoilers difficult. Still, I shall endeavor to sum up my basic thoughts while not revealing anything not mentioned in the blurb. T. Michael Martin’s debut is a very strange book in pretty much every way: the plot, the characters, and, most significantly, stylistically. All of this add up to distinguish the novel from other post-apocalyptics that take on the concept of an outbreak that turns human into monsters.

The End Games is a zombie novel, though the Bellows are certainly not like the average zombies, except that they too are best taken out with a head shot, and that they were once human. The Bellows manage to be eerier. Rather than moaning like zombies generally do, the Bellows are like echoes, repeating any words they hear in a long shout. Of course, this is nice since you can hear them coming, but also freaking scary when you realize they’re surrounding your position, and, since they’re so loud, they’re probably going to draw more Bellows to your position. In case that’s not bad enough, they’re evolving into something much worse.

What I think Martin does best here is the horror aspect. The End Games is pretty frightening, offering gore, monsters, battles, and psychological terror. Michael, a teen, and his five year old brother, Patrick, are trying to survive, to find a Safe Zone with other survivors, in this hellish Game. Getting through an apocalypse on your own would be bad enough but with a kid in tow? Yikes! When they do finally encounter other people, it’s very hard to know who to trust and who’s crazy, including with the brothers. All of this kept me engaged and curious.

There’s a strong focus on family in The End Games, which I greatly appreciate. Michael is an amazing brother. He takes such good care of Patrick, not resenting him for making survival more difficult. In fact, Michael needs Patrick just as much, because he has to keep it together for Patrick, keep hope and motivation.

T. Michael Martin uses a very interesting storytelling method. The End Games is written almost like a reality show about a particular character. The narration is third person limited, following Michael. However, the narrator seems at times to interact with Michael, adding to the video game feel of the tale in what is a slightly discomfiting but powerful technique. Here are some examples of that:

Dang, she’s so cool.
Dang, don’t think that.
Dang, why?

Because of on account of this being the most horrible time to get a crush on a girl.
Oh. Right. Daaaang
.”

“Keep going. You’re scared, that’s true, but.”

In the first example, a lot of Martin’s style is illustrated. Michael’s thoughts are included throughout in italics, though whispers are as well and sometimes emphasis as shown here. Michael and a couple other characters speak in some sort of strange dialect and occasionally hold out words, like with that last “dang.” You can also see the way the narrator just answered his question, and he in turn responded to that. Even more interesting, the narrator actually emulates Michael’s way of speaking/thinking; the bulk of the narration is in standard American dialect. In the second, the narrator eggs Michael on, urging him not to give up in a desperate situation. While I do think this writing style is largely effective, it’s very odd and will be disconcerting to some readers, especially the unidentifiable dialect used by the brothers.

Where The End Games left me cold was the characters. I don’t care much about anyone. Of them all, Michael is the most likable, due to his sweet affection for his brother. However, Patrick actually creeps me out a lot. I kept expecting him to turn out to be some sort of new monster or something, because I found him that freaky. Spoiler: he’s not. I couldn’t care about the half-hearted romance or the deaths of any of the characters either. More time is spent on developing the creepiness than on the characters.

The End Games will be a great read for those who love horror tales, and new creepy monsters. Those who take an interest in unique storytelling will also want to check out this quirky debut.

Favorite Quote:

“Oh Nerd Joy, you are one of the things I miss most about the world Before.”

21 responses to “Review: The End Games”

  1. Megan K. says:

    YES. That twist in the beginning made it so hard for me to talk about the book, too. I did enjoy the strong bonds of family, because all these post-apocalyptic books REALLY don’t touch on these kinds of things much. Patrick did creep me out, too. He’s the freaky kid whom you don’t know what’s the matter with, but Michael made up for him a little bit.

    Also, I must have missed out the explanation for that yes-yes shit because I couldn’t understand what its use was for.

    • Christina says:

      Oh, “yes-yes” was their code word for “I love you.” It was something about how the little brother couldn’t say that the actual words at first. Annoying, though, I agree.

      Patrick was so fucking creepy.

  2. I just couldn’t do the writing in this one, I really wish I could have eased into it like you did because this was one I was so excited about. The echoes of the billows was pretty darn creepy in what I read. I did find out the twist from Blythe and I have to say that it’s pretty neat! I would not have expected that at all.

    • Christina says:

      I super don’t blame you. It was very weird. I appreciate the innovation, but that still doesn’t make it an ideal read. The bellows were freaky, like how you could hear them surrounding you. Yeah, the twist was pretty cool.

  3. Soma Rostam says:

    Well, this is confusing
    I am not sure about my feelings for this one and the narration style seems very strange
    but it is unique, i can give it that
    GREAT review
    Your reader,
    Soma
    http://insomnia-of-books.blogspot.com/

  4. Oooo, I was definitely turned off by the mixed reviews about this because they all mentioned how the characters weren’t very well written. But I am a huge sucker for horror books nowadays, I am always on the prowl for new releases that are horror or thriller even though I can’t watch a horror movie without wanting to curl up into a ball and rock myself to sleep. So I might keep an eye out for this at the library 🙂 Fantastic review Christina!

    • Christina says:

      Ha, library is a good choice. The horror stuff was pretty interesting I thought, though I’m no connoisseur of the genre. The writing is odd, though, and I wouldn’t ever reread it myself.

  5. I’m really, really looking forward to this one! I love horror and was itching to pick this one up over the weekend. I didn’t get a chance but I will soon.

  6. Amanda says:

    I do love that this book really does focus on the relationship between brothers. But those examples you provided, as well as your analysis of the writing style, make me a bit nervous. I’m not usually a fan of quirky writing, especially for a book with a darker subject matter. Nor am I am fan of the narrator actually conversing with the characters without being, you know, a character. But still, I am interested to read this and it does sound quite unlike anything else out there. Great review!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I think it sort of works here, but it’s certainly not perfection like in Blood Red Road. This is going to be a tough read for a lot of people. It was alright for me, because I was warned and was frankly expecting worse. The narrator speaking with them was odd. Very Rocky and Bullwinkle or something.

  7. Sophie says:

    Would you recommend it to teens, or is it gritty and gory in like a grown-up sort of way? 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Ummm, totally depends on the teen. I read A Clockwork Orange when I was 13 and I think I turned out okay. I didn’t think it was insanely over the top.

  8. Amy says:

    I’m glad that you were able to enjoy this one. I got maybe 70 pages in before I gave up. I couldn’t get into it at all. I might come back to it eventually. I let my 13 year old neighbor borrow it. Maybe he can write a guest review on my blog for it. Lol!!

  9. aparajita says:

    glad u like it…. i saw this on edelweiss but didn’t know if i should request it or not…..now it just seems i need to get this book.

    Le’ Grande Codex

  10. Interesting, I admit to being curious despite some concerns.

  11. Lyn Kaye says:

    Oh! I feel for you. I had some books that I struggled with the entire “spoiler” issue while reviewing. Sometimes I feel like throwing a sentence into Blogger that states “Book good/bad. Go read – neat/not-so-neat storyline” then calling it a night.

    • Christina says:

      Hahaha, yeah, that would be one compelling review, right.

      “Stuff happened. Shit went down. Tears were shed. There were characters. The end.”

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